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Defence goes missing

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley


TORONTO - If somebody wanted to bet that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars would combine for 10 goals, in their only meeting of the season, you would have broke the bank to take that wager.

No matter how remote the chance, that scenario came to pass Saturday night at Air Canada Centre when the two teams battled to a defensively sloppy 5-5 draw. The tie extended the Leafs' and Stars' unbeaten streaks to five and three games, respectively.

Making the outcome more surprising was the fact Toronto had been living on great defence in its previous four games.

That defensive play stemmed from a couple factors. First and foremost, the forwards had been backchecking impeccably and second, the Leafs' blueliners were making the simple play. Not much of that happened against the Stars.

Three of the main culprits were Mats Sundin, Gary Roberts and Jonas Hoglund, who combined for a plus/minus rating of -3.
Corey Schwab had to deal with traffic all night.
Graig Abel Photography


"We had a lot of turnovers tonight," the Leafs' captain said. "When you play a team like the Dallas Stars --and our line played the Mike Modano line -- you have to be aware."

"We're playing on home ice and we should be confident and we know we're playing a good team. We definitely weren't as good defensively as we have been the last couple games."

Fortunately Sundin and Roberts were able to make up for some of that by contributing on the powerplay. Each scored a goal as the Leafs went 3-for-5 with the man advantage.

Although they did manage to salvage a point, it was disheartening for Coach/GM Pat Quinn to watch.

"We had a lot of guys who didn't want the puck and didn't want to do anything to get it," Quinn said.

One excuse for the strange performance could be the trade deadline looming large on Tuesday. The Leafs have already made one move for goalie Tom Barrasso, who will get a start some time next week, and speculation is they would like to add a defenceman.

The health of Dmitry Yushkevich will factor heavily into that decision. The rugged rearguard has had the clot in his leg examined by three different specialists but is no closer to knowing if he can return.

Quinn said the clot has started to dissipate but a decision hasn't been made on whether he will modify his blood-thinning medication to control bruising and cuts. Yushkevich is a restricted free agent after this year and that could affect the outcome.

Toronto did get some good injury news when Mikael Renberg returned to the lineup. His hamstring problem kept him out of the last four games. Renberg tweaked the injury in the second period but continued on. According to the training staff he can do no further damage by playing.

Despite the injury problems that have hurt the Leafs, Toronto is going to send down Paul Healey and Karel Pilar to St. John's. The callups need to play games in order to be eligible for the American Hockey League playoffs and Quinn would rather them play there than sit in the press box here.

NOTES: Renberg played on a line with Robert Reichel and Travis Green. Reichel responded with two goals ... Garry Valk scored the other tally for Toronto ... The Leafs had two shots in the overtime period ... Alex Mogilny had the puck dancing most of the night but ended up with just an assist. ... WWF superstar Edge got the crowd going in the third period.
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