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Leafs Land First Blow

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
September 20, 2006


OTTAWA (CP) -- If Jeff O'Neill got to pick the Toronto Maple Leafs' final roster, his old teammate Bates Battaglia would make the grade.

"Apart from our goaltender, he was our best player tonight,'' the Leafs veteran said after Battaglia had a goal Wednesday in Toronto's 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators. "It looks like he's going to make this team. It looks like he's ready to play again.''

Battaglia hasn't played in the NHL since he finished the 2003-04 season with the Washington Capitals. The 30-year-old winger spent all of last season in the American Hockey League with the Leafs' affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

He and O'Neill played for new Leafs coach Paul Maurice in Carolina and Maurice reunited the pair, along with John Pohl, and Toronto rebounded from a 4-0 loss in its exhibition opener to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday to record its first victory of the pre-season.

After Mike Fisher broke a scoreless tie for Ottawa in the second period, O'Neill stripped Senators defenceman Chris Phillips of the puck and fed Battaglia on a 2-on-1 break to even the score.

"We could have used a few of those five years ago,'' Maurice joked. "I was pleased. I thought Bates had what he had before. Bates had a good game.''

A good skater with size at six-foot-two, 205 pounds, Maurice and O'Neill said Battaglia, a Chicago native, can help the Leafs in the new NHL.

"He's big and he can skate, so the numbers say he's in the fight,'' Maurice said.

Brad Brown scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and Andy Wozniewski added an insurance marker.

Mikael Tellqvist had an outstanding game in goal for Toronto, making several outstanding saves. He went the distance and stopped 33 shots before a crowd of 17,195 at Scotiabank Place, while free-agent signing Michael Peca recorded a pair of assists.

The Senators changed all 20 players in their lineup a night after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 in their pre-season opener at Halifax.

Gerber, the Senators' new No. 1 goaltender, made his first appearance with Ottawa since he signed a three-year, US$11.1-million free-agent deal to join the team from the Carolina Hurricanes in the off-season.

He stopped all 13 shots he faced before giving way to prospect Jeff Glass midway through the second period with Ottawa leading 1-0.

Glass, who stopped 14 of 17 shots saves the rest of the way, was beaten by Battaglia, just minutes after entering the game.

The Leafs took the lead early in the third when Brown's point shot through traffic found the top corner and Wozniewski scored a similar goal midway through the period to make it 3-1.

Toronto went 0-for-5 on the power play and is now 0-for-12 overall in the pre-season. The Senators finished 0-for-5 with the man advantage.

Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson left the game in the second period for precautionary reasons after suffering a slight groin pull.

Likewise, Toronto defenceman Pavel Kubina, an off-season signing from the Tampa Bay Lightning, also left early in the second with a mild hip-flexor injury.

 

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