Ice-time rewards for four Leafs D-men

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:55 PM ET

When Tomas Kaberle comes back to Toronto on Saturday, he will see a Maple Leafs defence that is rewarding the foursome of Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarsson and Keith Aulie with gobs of ice time.

In the aftermath of the trades that saw Kaberle shipped to Boston and Francois Beauchemin pack his bags for Anaheim, Toronto’s newly crowned “Big Four” have each been averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game.

For Schenn and Phaneuf, that’s nothing new.

But for Gunnarsson, a second-year NHLer, and Aulie, a raw rookie, it is a reflection of how much potential the organization feels they both have.

“Not bad, eh,” Gunnarsson said, a wry grin splashed over his face. “I like that. I’d rather play 20 minutes plus than just 13 or 14. It’s great.

“I love that. I’m happy for the opportunity when the guys got traded — Beauch and Kaberle. I think Keith and Schennie are happy to get lots of minutes too.

“It’s nothing you can really expect at the start of the season. But when it happens, it’s great.”

BLACK AND GOLD KABBY?

Strange.

That’s the way most of the Maple Leafs feel whenever they see Kaberle wearing the black-and-gold colours of the Boston Bruins.

They’ll get a first hand look, too, when the Bruins travel to Toronto to meet the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday.

“I’ve said before — he’s been in trade rumours since I was in St. Mike’s 10 years ago,” forward Tim Brent said. “It’ll be real odd.

“We sometimes see him in highlights or in different video clips we show in the room wearing a Boston uniform. It just looks strange on him.”

Schenn agreed.

“It’s going to be a weird feeling,” Schenn said.

According to Gunnarsson, Kaberle can expect some razzing.

“We’re going to give him a hard time,” Gunnarsson joked.

POINT, COUNTERPOINT

With Kaberle and Beauchemin no longer on the scene, Brent admits he finally is becoming comfortable playing the point on the power play.

“I’m getting more comfortable every game,” Brent said. “It’s something I’ve done quite a bit in the American league.

“Obviously its that’s much more important, harder to do in the NHL. Each game I just want to get that much better to get more comfortable.”


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