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New Faces Equal New Results

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

Jeff Marek hosts AM 640 Toronto's Leafs Lunch, also seen each weekday on Leafs TV, from noon to 2pm. Marek, along with co-host Bill Watters have their finger on the pulse of Leafs Nation and now joins the team.

March 15, 2006

(TORONTO) -- As the playoffs approach and teams start to show the effects of a grinding NHL schedule it should be no surprise that many new faces are peppering lineups and the Leafs are no different.

With the long-term injury to Eric Lindros, the Ken Klee trade, the Marius Czerkawski waive and the steady flow of Marlies call ups to the Leafs, coupled with the subsequent Pensacola Ice Pilots callups to the Marlies, the faces on the Leafs year-end photos will be a little different than the ones on the team's Christmas cards.

Here's a quick peek at some of the new, and in one case not-so-new, players in the Leafs mix.

Lucky Luke has been steady on the backend
in T.O.. (Getty Images)
Luke Richardson:
A former first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, 7th overall in the 1987 draft, Richardson is back for his second tour of duty with the Maple Leafs. But it could have been his third as the team tried to re-acquire the 6-foot-4, Ottawa native from the Oilers in 1997 but his agent Don Meehan steered him towards the Philadelphia Flyers instead.  A big, bruising hitter, Richardson hasn't mellowed with age (he's still pounding forwards up against the glass) but he has gotten smarter since struggling on the Leafs blue line from '87-'91. No longer does Richardson look for the "home run" pass, choosing rather now to make small passes along the boards.

"It's great, it was a weird feeling yesterday kind of surreal but excited to be back in Toronto, there's no place like Toronto on a Saturday night," explained Richardson on AM640's Leafs Lunch on Leafs TV one day after the trade.

Explaining how the trade went down, Richardson explains it was a situation where Columbus GM Doug Maclean wanted to make room for younger defencemen and Luke wanted to go to a team that had a shot at the playoffs.

 "Doug came to me last weekend and on Monday and asked me what I wanted to do and it was great in that respect because their were a few teams that called and he wanted to talk to me first. I asked him not to shop me around as a No. 7 defencemen. I wanted to go to a team that wants me to come and help and that's what he said came about with Toronto and I'm looking forward to it," said Richardson.

Looking forward to it indeed, and if the Leafs do manage to scrape into the playoffs, Richardson is looking forward to a matchup with the powerhouse Ottawa Senators.

"I'm full time in the summer in Ottawa and we love going back there and we always keep our ears open in the summer because the Senators fans do not like the Leafs. So I had to call a few friends and give it to them telling them and saying I'm back in a Leaf uniform to torment the Sens."

Ben Ondrus clearly wanst to stay
in the NHL. (Getty Images)
Ben Ondrus:
Former captain of the Swift Current Bronco's, Ondrus has been one of the more pleasant surprises for the Leafs since coming up from the Marlies for the March 7th game against the Montreal Canadiens.  And it was a huge thrill from the undrafted kid from Sherwood Park, Alberta.

"Yeah it was a very big game for everybody the atmosphere was incredible and like you said all the media and fans were hyped up. I couldn't have asked for a better first game," said Ondrus.

Ondrus is the kind of player every coach loves. He's the first on the ice for practice and the last one to leave. He's a chippy right winger who will block shots, finish every check, go hard into traffic, come out with the puck and isn't shy about pitching the mitts to protect a teammate. And when it comes to fighting he doesn't pick his spots either as a quick peek at his AHL dance card reveals such heavyweight names as Brad Staubitz, Kevin Bieksa and Steve Ott.

Ondrus had his first NHL fight Tuesday night against Travis Green of the Boston Bruins. It was a sound decision over Green who quickly realized he had bitten off more than he could chew.

And while he'd rather play for the Leafs, Ondrus realizes that going back down to the Marlies is just a bad game away.

 "Well I talked to John (Ferguson) and Mike Penny after the game and they said they were going to reassign me and let me know before the game if I would be coming back up but its part of the business, it's a busy time of year."

Consensus among those who have seen him play with the Leafs however is ... this kid is staying for at least the rest of the season.

The Marlies hope Suglobov's
scoring touch continues.
(Getty Images)
Aleksander Suglobov:
One day in advance of the trade deadline, Leafs GM John Ferguson swung the deal that brought prospect Aleksander Suglobov from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for veteran defenceman Ken Klee. 

The howls were heard almost immediately from Leafs fans who demanded to know why the Leafs traded a top 4 defenceman for a "project" who Lou Lamarillo discarded. 

However, this past weekend Leafs fans who took in the Marlies games at the Ricoh got to see first hand what this prospect was all about.  Playing on a line with John Pohl and Jeremy Williams, Suglobov is a threat to score every time he's on the ice. 

From the faceoff dots down to the net he is a magical with the puck, able to turn defencemen inside-out with head fakes and dangles. He possesses a laser-like wrist shot and a howitzer-like slap shot as his pair of goals against the Syracuse Crunch attests.  Oh by the way, he scored both those goals in under a minute.

However, as is the case with many AHL'ers Suglobov still has room to get better as Marlies head coach Paul Maurice explains.

 "I think there is some room to improve, that's true at every single level usually theses guys come in as one dimensional and come in as a top offensive players or maybe physical players. For a lot of young players they have to learn the defensive side of the game including Alex. If he's the leading scorer on another team there is tendency to not put the same pressure on him. It really is a brand new learning experience and we asked him to do things defensively and he's an intelligent player we know that."

Look for Suglobov to help lead the Marlies to what may turn out to be a long playoff run. He has an outside chance to crack the Leafs lineup next year.

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