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Leafs pacing Sundin

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
by John McCauley

Elite offensive players often expect to be given more ice time than their less talented counterparts but for Mats Sundin it appears winning is more important than his individual achievements.

Sundin played just above his game average of 18:36 minutes per game as his Toronto Maple Leafs dropped a 5-2 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.

OK, so the theory doesn't work sometimes but for the most part the Leafs have been successful this season because of their depth and Sundin recognizes that.

You won't hear Sundin complaining about ice time.
Sundin's small ice time increase against the Hurricanes can be attributed to playing catch up with Carolina in the third period but Toronto's captain would gladly trade the little extra for a win.

Despite a lighter load than most superstars the 29-year-old is still leading his team in points (21), goals (11) and shots (80). Head Coach Pat Quinn believes Sundin plays his best in that range.

"In my mind he is a 19-20 minute player, maybe 21," Quinn said. "That seems to me where he is playing good with lots of energy. You go much above that and I think it (his production) falls off a little bit."

Over the last six or seven games Quinn said that Sundin has had his ice time cut because the opposition has been receiving more power plays than the Leafs. Sundin plays primarily on the power play not the penalty kill.

Another reason for the drop is simple-talent level. The Leafs have acquired veteran forwards like Shayne Corson, Gary Roberts and Alexander Mogilny over the last two seasons to fill holes in the hopes of building a Stanley Cup champion and they need to see the ice as well.

The emergence of Darcy Tucker as a viable offensive option has also given Quinn another alternative. Tucker suited up against the Hurricanes after catching a butt-end in the head from the Florida Panthers' Jason Wiemer on November 19. He suffered a grade-three concussion but showed no ill effects.

Tucker, Corson and Mogilny formed an effective line in the feisty forward's return. The combination played more than any other and generated eight shots on goal but couldn't solve Canes' netminder Tom Barrasso.

In comparison, Carolina's stars have also been getting Sundin-like ice time so far this year. Ron Francis and Jeff O'Neill have been getting very close to 20 minutes a game and it seems to be working for them. Francis leads the team in assists (18) and O'Neill in goals (24).

When looking at the numbers it appears that the Leafs and Hurricanes agree that less is more when it comes to ice time.
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