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, Torontos newly crowned Big Four have each been averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game.

For Schenn and Phaneuf, thats 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. Id rather play 20 minutes plus than just 13 or 14. Its great.

I love that. Im 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.

Its nothing you can really expect at the start of the season. But when it happens, its great.

BLACK AND GOLD KABBY?

Strange.

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

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

Ive said before hes been in trade rumours since I was in St. Mikes 10 years ago, forward Tim Brent said. Itll 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.

Its going to be a weird feeling, Schenn said.

According to Gunnarsson, Kaberle can expect some razzing.

Were 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.

Im getting more comfortable every game, Brent said. Its something Ive done quite a bit in the American league.

Obviously its thats 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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