Neither Joey Crabb nor Carl Gunnarsson was auditioning to be the Maple Leafs’ next enforcer.
It just looked that way during practice on Sunday afternoon at the MasterCard Centre, when the teammates dropped their gloves and engaged in a brief scrap after jostling in front of the net.
Crabb landed a couple of rights to Gunnarsson’s face before Nikolai Kulemin and assistant coaches Greg Cronin and Rob Zettler broke the fight up.
“We were just battling and it was nothing much,” Crabb said. “I thought he butt-ended me, he claims he didn’t. That’s fine, we were working hard out there and trying to get better. Quick little tussle and that was it.
“We’re good buddies off the ice. We look too much alike. Little brotherly quarrel. As soon it is over, it was back to being normal.”
That appeared to be true, but the scrap was an indication of the intensity that the players brought to practice. The Leafs can’t be blamed for getting a little antsy, given they have lost four of their past five games and have just two games against the hot New York Islanders to right the ship before the all-star break.
During a 3-1 loss against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night, the Leafs mustered precious few scoring chances.
“We were 17-4 in faceoffs in the offensive zone and did not generate any offence from those or from cycle situations,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “We had possession of the puck, but we did never penetrate or really even pushed ourselves to penetrate, and that’s what we were trying to do today.”
As such, the top line of Tyler Bozak between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul has been reunited.
The Leafs fell two points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference on Sunday afternoon when the Washington Capitals, in eighth place, lost in overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Toronto has 51 points, Washington 53. The Winnipeg Jets are in 10th with 50 points.
Wilson said he has not decided whether goaltender James Reimer will play in one of the games against the Islanders.
And don’t expect to see forwards Darryl Boyce (back) or Colby Armstrong (concussion) in the home-and-home against the Isles. Wilson said he was unsure, but it would make sense to let the pair continue to heal through the all-star break.
Defenceman John-Michael Liles (concussion) did not skate on Sunday. He won’t be back until after the break.
As for that scrap, Gunnarsson also shrugged it off.
“It’s fine,” Gunnarsson said. “Me and Crabby always have battles going on in practice and sometimes you snap. But when practice is over, it’s over.”