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Leafs Looking To Rebound

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO (CP) - After watching his team suffer its ugliest loss in 14 years, it would be easy to understand if Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn was ready to blow the whole thing up.

But the veteran coach was a portrait of calm in the wake of Toronto's 8-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night, not ready to hit the panic button this early in the NHL season.

"There's obviously danger in over-reacting,'' said Quinn, the NHL's longest-tenured coach with 1,247 games under his belt. "It would be easy to start blaming people.''

But he didn't.

With a room full of reporters ready to hear him rip into a defence corps that was awful against Ottawa and a forward group that wasn't much better, Quinn defended his players.

"It is good enough,'' he said of his team. "We can handle it.''

Still, there are certainly question marks.

Beyond Toronto's top defensive pairing of Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle, who are Nos. 1 and 2 in the league in ice time, the Maple Leafs lack depth on the blue-line.

Ken Klee and Alexander Khavanov are NHL-calibre defencemen, but are probably being counted on a little too much as the team's second pairing. They were on the ice for three Ottawa goals on Saturday.

Wade Belak and Staffan Kronvall, an AHL callup filling in for the injured Aki Berg, was the team's third unit against the Senators and were burned for four goals.

While many question if that group of defenders can help the Leafs continue to be a playoff team, Quinn says he has faith in them.

The Leafs coach had hinted at line changes ahead of Saturday's game, but ended up keeping things intact.

Don't be surprised if he uses the same strategy on Monday night when the Florida Panthers visit the Air Canada Centre.

"We always are reacting to what's wrong with this, what's wrong with that,'' Quinn said. "I thought I'd just make a statement to the guys to say, `Look, let's ride with this and see.'

"We put this together because we thought it would work. Let's see it work.''

Even if he has doubts, Quinn's biggest problem might be a lack of options. Carlo Colaiacovo and Andy Wozniewski were both given a long look by the NHL team, but now find themselves trolling the blue-line for the AHL's Marlies.

Kronvall had been that team's best defender but he looked lost in his first NHL game against Ottawa.

Beyond that, there simply aren't many other places to look. The NHL's salary cap severely limits Toronto's ability to bring in a pricey veteran through a trade.

So the Maple Leafs must trudge on with what they have.

"I they we've got some good players here,'' Quinn said. "We're just not playing the way we like.''

Toronto's dressing room had the feel of a funeral home on Saturday night but several of the team's veterans were quick to agree with their coach.

"We've bounced back from this before,'' said forward Darcy Tucker. "We'll do it again.''

It started with a hard practice on Sunday.

The Maple Leafs are 5-4-2 and face tough competition this week against the Panthers (6-4-1) and surging Carolina Hurricanes (8-2-1), who they visit on Thursday night.

Clearly, a bad loss against their fiercest rival is not something they intend to dwell on.

"We embarrassed ourselves,'' forward Matt Stajan said. "We've got to put this behind us, learn our lesson and not let it happen again.''

Added tough guy Tie Domi, sporting a cut on his nose after a fight with Senators heavyweight Brian McGrattan: "The sun shines tomorrow. It's another day.''

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