By Matthew Iaboni
December 29, 2005
(TORONTO) - The Toronto Maple Leafs have once again proven that when an injury occurs they have other players who are willing to step up and make significant contributions.
That was no different in the Leafs 4-3 shootout win over the red-hot Buffalo Sabres. The Leafs have now won four in a row.
"It speaks to the competitive instincts of the players on the team," head coach Pat Quinn said. "You can't guarantee you will overcome the loss of key players but good things can happen when you're willing to work hard for a long period of time."
Thursday with young defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo out of the lineup with a wrist injury suffered in Tuesday night's win in Pittsburgh, it was fellow youngster Staffan Kronwall who got the call up and was in the lineup against Buffalo.
Kronwall saw 14:08 of ice time, big minutes in overtime and when the Leafs were shorthanded. It is a testament to the Leafs coaching staff to show tremendous confidence in all the young players.
With Eric Lindros and Jason Allison out of the lineup, Kyle Wellwood has stepped up and moved into a second line centre role and done extremely well. In the win over the Sabres, Wellwood made a great pass through the defender's legs to Darcy Tucker who had a tap in for the Leafs third goal.
"That's one of the plays we talked about in the dressing room and when I got the puck I figured he would be there," Wellwood said.
The diminutive centre had 16:49 of ice time. He was a key part of the Leafs second power play unit with Jeff O'Neill and Mariusz Czerkawski.
Another Marlies product John Pohl was recalled after Jason Allison fractured his ring finger in Monday night's win. Pohl, who is the Marlies leading scorer, has done a nice job in the two games that he has played in. He set up his linemates numerous times and he had several chances himself but wasn't able to beat Martin Biron.
"I probably should of shot and I saw Pony (Alexei Ponikarovsky) and it was nice of coach to give us lots of ice time in overtime and we got the win and it was great to be here for that," Pohl said.
Pohl saw time on the first power play unit with Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker. Pohl a very good offensive player, was no slouch in his own end.
"Coach (Paul) Maurice tells us that we have to be aware defensively and then hopefully play well offensively," Pohl said after the game.
His strong performance didn't go unnoticed by the Maple Leafs head coach.
"John had a very impressive game," Quinn said. "He's gotten better with the minutes, he is conscious defensively and he made some nice plays in the third and overtime."
It was Pohl's linemate Ponikarovsky who received most of the accolades after the game.
"We've seen him for a while, it took him a while," Quinn said. "He's a hard working kid and I think he's starting to find out that he can be a better player."
The last time there was hockey Quinn had Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov with Joe Nieuwendyk and Quinn feels that is a big reason for the young winger's success.
"It started with Nieuwendyk, he pushed him and Nik, and in training camp you could see Pony was a much better player."
The Leafs will look to continue their roll when they are in New Jersey on New Year's Eve.