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Leafs Focusing On Tonight

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Video: Preview | Ron Wilson | Nik Antropov | More...

Luke Schenn can’t exactly remember when the realities of hockey hit him, but if he had to guess he would point to the junior trading deadline, two years ago when he played for Kelowna in the Western League.

“It happened to me when I was 17,” he said. “We made a six-player trade with Regina. We got off the bus at eight o’clock and had to be in school by nine. Two of my best buddies got traded”

“No matter where you are, it’s never easy when teammates move on, but at the same time you’re going to get guys back and make new friends. Anyone who has played the game knows it’s a part of it.”

The Leafs play the New Jersey Devils tonight and while there is no shortage of story lines, the remarkable 100 shutouts authored by Martin Brodeur, the Devils standing as the number two team in the East behind Boston, it’s really about the deadline.

“Everyone knows what tomorrow at 3 p.m. means,” said coach Ron Wilson.

The deadline could bring at least two departures. Forward Dominic Moore has been negotiating with the club for a new contract but should the two sides remain apart - there was nothing at mid-day - Leafs GM Brian Burke will deal Moore.

Faced with that prospect, Moore said he would do what he always does.

“It’s all part of the job and having been through situations like this before, you learn how to handle it better,” he said. “You have to do the best you can and stick to the normal game day routine.”

This is Moore’s initial passage through the rumour mill.

“It’s been six or seven years since I heard the first rumour,” said Nik Antropov, a nine-year Leafs veteran. At some point it was stressful. I wouldn’t say I got used to but it’s just another trade deadline day.”

Antropov is an unrestricted free agent and the Leafs don’t expect to re-sign him. That means Burke’s last chance to harvest a return vaporizes at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Expect Antropov to go.

If this is the last night for Moore and Antropov, the repercussions start Thursday in Washington.

Jason Blake has prospered with Moore as his centreman. Moore is fourth in scoring with 12 goals and 29 assists and his better-than-average skating and defensive awareness means he can be used in pretty well any situation.

Antropov is playing with Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky, himself the subject of trade rumours. Antropov’s 21 goals is the second highest total on the team and his offence would be badly missed.

The Leafs have won four straight games and gone into overtime in six straight games.

They will start 31-year-old Vesa Toskala who is in search for his fourth straight win.
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