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High praise in Hogtown for Hoglund

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by Matt Akler

You could probably win a bar bet with this one. Ask your hockey pals who has scored the second most goals as a member of the Leafs over the last two seasons. They'll likely start by saying that Mats Sundin has to be first, which is true, but expect a pause before an answer is directly given.

If you wanted to give a clue you could let them know that this player would no longer be a Leaf if it were not for a piece of faulty office equipment. If that doesn't ring a bell, then say he has played on the team's number one line for much of the past two campaigns and is likely to man one of those spots again.

If they haven't got it by then, just say the name Jonas Hoglund and collect your winnings.

Hoglund continued his strong preseason play in Thursday's 3-1 win for the Leafs over the Sabres at Air Canada Centre.

"I thought Hoglund was very good tonight," said coach Pat Quinn. "His past two games have been very good."

In 1999-2000, his first year with the club, Hoglund netted 29 goals, 10 more than his previous career best. Last year, predominantly playing alongside Sundin again, the five-year NHL veteran followed up with his second straight 20-goal effort, finishing the year with 23.

But the wheels started to come off for Hoglund when he was held pointless in 10 playoff games in the Leafs run to the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals and they were removed entirely when a deal was agreed to whereby he would head to Boston for prospect Kyle Wanvig. However, the necessary paperwork for Wanvig's contract didn't find its way through a fax machine and the trade fell through.

Returning to a club that appeared not to want him many believed that Hoglund might be the third-line winger, maybe even fourth, especially considering the frontline talent acquired during the summer.

But there he has been alongside Sundin and fellow Swede Mikael Renberg for most of the preseason. Hoglund scored the winning goal in Sunday's emotional 5-4 win over the Senators, and even though it's been his only point of the preseason, he has done nothing to suggest he would not be part of that trio when the regular season opens next Wednesday against Ottawa.

"They are both playing good, both fun to play with," said Sundin of Hoglund and Renberg. "They've been skating well and both are great hockey players."

Such high praise for a man who was almost sent out of town.

Notes: The Leafs are 3-0 during the preseason at Air Canada Centre, but 0-4 away from their home rink ... Alexander Mogilny was the best player on the ice with two goals and numerous other scoring opportunities ... Curtis Joseph played the entire game, the first Leaf netminder to play all 60 minutes in the preseason. The Leafs should be thankful their ace was between the pipes because he made several big saves in the third to preserve the win, especially while the Leafs was in a 4-on-3 shorthanded situation and only up by one goal ... All the scoring took place in the third period.
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