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Leafs and Coyotes ready for family reunion

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

It doesn't take long to realize that Danny Markov was a well-liked member of the Toronto Maple Leafs before he was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes.

The often-fouled mouthed prankster was seen reminiscing in the Leafs dressing room after practice on Monday with a cast of his old buddies. It appeared he hadn't missed a beat with his friends, sending gentle jabs at them all.

The defenceman gets his chance to be a little more physical with his old companions Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre, when his Phoenix Coyotes take on the boys in blue.

It will also be the first game for the talented Sergei Berezin against his ex-mates. Mikael Renberg, Robert Reichel and Travis Green (plus lesser-known Craig Mills) came to Toronto in return for the ex-Leafs as part of two separate deals this past offseason. It's a little too early to evaluate the success of the deals for the Leafs but no question they are a deeper team because of it.

Renberg and Reichel weren't playing for the Coyotes anyway so their loss was inconsequential for Phoenix. Both played in Europe last season. Renberg was with Phoenix for just two months before returning to Sweden and Reichel played just 20 games in the desert before a contact stalemate sent him overseas. Green's stock had fallen after a down year and management wanted to make changes after Wayne Gretzky took over as owner.

The Leafs came calling with some appealing names. Phoenix was looking to add some scoring punch and Berezin fit that bill but they were also looking to add some grit and a solid defenceman to their blue line. Enter Markov, who the Leafs hated dealing but GM/Coach Pat Quinn knows to compete with the Devils, the Leafs needed to improve their depth.

"It was one of those deals you make because you think it will help you get better and I think it has," Quinn said. "But it doesn't mean you've changed your opinion about (Markov and Berezin). We gave up two quality players to get three."

Things have worked out great for both teams so far. Renberg leads the team in assists and has been a great linemate to Mats Sundin. Reichel and Green have added the depth the team was looking for on the third and fourth lines. For Phoenix, Berezin is starting to score after an early injury hampered his progress while Markov has been great posting three goals and 13 assists.

Toronto as a team has won four of their last five and are first in the Eastern Conference and not to be out done, Phoenix has won five straight.

Looks like the winner of the trade may be settled on the ice Tuesday night.
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