Dig harder, Wilson urges

Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency files)

Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson. (Dave Thomas/QMI Agency files)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:26 AM ET

There was some feistiness exhibited during Maple Leafs practice on Wednesday, something that was not so evident in their 5-3 loss in Florida the previous night.

From bodychecks to takeouts, the intensity was evident throughout the 90-minute workout at the RBC Center.

“We didn’t show enough of that against Florida,” winger Clarke MacArthur said.

Coach Ron Wilson is encouraging his players to dig harder in the dirty areas.

“It was a practice we had similar to the other day,” Wilson said.

“We’ve got to win more board battles and be stronger along the walls in our zone. Likewise a lot of the drills are to have the defencemen maintain their defensive gaps better than we have been. That’s what this practice was — a continuation of things we need to work on in the second half.”

Captain Dion Phaneuf said this was not the way the Leafs wanted to start their three-game trip, which includes tilts in Carolina Thursday and Winnipeg on Saturday.

“We said before we left that this was going to be an important trip,” Phaneuf said. “Now we have to put the Florida game behind us and concentrate on Carolina.”

While Leafs defencemen had 10 shots on goal against the Panthers, WIlson was not impressed by that stat.

“I don’t look as much as the ones we got on net, I look at the ones we got blocked,” he said. “I’m looking for the perfect night where none get blocked. That’s my job.

“You have to seek perfection. And if you fall a little short, that’s usually pretty good. We’ve got some guys who are starting to move their feet really well along the blue line but I still want more shots to hit the net and more traffic in front.”

A TALE OF TWO PKS

According to Wilson, the Leafs’ 30th-ranked penalty kill doesn’t look bad during workouts.

But when the bullets are flying for real, well, that’s a different story.

“What we’ve got to do here is just take a deep breath and not talk about (the penalty killing) all the time and not overanalyze it,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to get the four guys on the ice to be aggressive as one, not four times one. It’s got to be one times four.

“When you watch us practice the PK, we’re really good.

“When the games start, there seems to be this dread that we are going to give up a goal. And inevitably we have to start being aggressive like we were a month ago.

“It’s like one wheel falls off and you’re on the rims a little bit. You never know what’s going to happen at that point.”

LOOSE LEAFS

Defenceman John-Michael Liles, who is on the IR with what the team calls concussion-like symptoms, accompanied the team to Raleigh. He hopes to resume skating by the end of the week ... Concussed forward Colby Armstrong also is on the trip but there is no timetable for his return.


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