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Crabb Making Most Of Opportunity With Leafs

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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You approach Leafs winger Joey Crabb with the usual story lines.

They are, in no particular order, Sara Palin, huntin’ and fishin’ and playing in Atlanta last season where nearly all the fans came disguised as empty seats.

“Yes,” he says, “those would be the top three.”

For the record, Joey Crabb is from Alaska, home turf for Sara Palin, that uniquely American concoction with the updo, wire glasses and an undeniable appeal to a significant proportion of the voting public. Crabb played 29 games with the Thrashers last season, hence the empty arena jokes.

Crabb is a sport. Palin, he said, “was very popular but she seems to have fallen out of favor a bit. Everyone has an opinion.”

He does not hunt but and loves camping and fishing. “The people around me weren’t much for hunting and neither am I,” he said.

And nothing reminds Crabb what a difference a year can bring like looking up into the stands on a work night.

“Atlanta was a good experience, my first in the NHL, but obviously it’s different here. The stands are full on a Tuesday night against the last place team.”

Called up from the Marlies and inserted into the lineup six games ago, Crabb has blossomed playing left wing with Phil Kessel across the bay and Tyler Bozak in the middle.

Crabb is goalless but has collected four points in six games and sits at plus 2. The line has averaged a goal a game over the last five contests.

“My job is to get in on the forecheck, hit and when the puck comes, make a play,” said Crabb. “Our line has a real of blend of skills. Kessel has that incredible skill and speed. Bozak has great vision and that grasp of the little things that matters so much. Playing with them is the best of all worlds.”

Crabb has brought the quality the Leafs needed most: jam around the net. Against the Boston Bruins, the six-foot-one 190-pound Crabb engaged towering Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara all night long.

“I hit him but every time I bounced off,” Crabb said. “Battling in front of the net was hard. It’s like butting heads with a circus freak.”

Crabb has played 290 AHL games against 35 NHL contests. The key to earning your chance, he said, is to believe you are an NHL player and deliver on that belief on as many nights as possible.

“I know you hear this all the time, but you can’t get too high when you play here. You may stop doing the things that matter most. If you get too low, your confidence dips. You need to always remember what your role is. That’s what you do.”

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