by John McCauley
January 6, 2003 MAKING THEM COUNT
There's no nights off in the NHL, especially if you're the Leafs and battling for first in the Eastern Conference.
With a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators under their belt, the Leafs ae one step closer to making Pat Quinn the head coach of the Eastern Conference All-Star team next month in Minnesota.
A win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday would ensure the veteran bench boss the honour for his fourth time. He previously coached the classic in 1980, 2000 and 2002.
The decision is based on the best team winning percentage for each conference through games on January 8, 2004.
Here's how the competition stacked up heading into the game: Pat Quinn
Toronto Maple Leafs -- .671 -- 2-1 win over Predators, Thursday vs. Ottawa Ken Hitchcock
Philadelphia Flyers -- .663 -- Wednesday at Buffalo, Thursday vs. Florida Pat Burns
New Jersey Devils -- .658 -- Wednesday vs. Pittsburgh Jacques Martin
Ottawa Senators -- .632 -- 5-2 win over Tampa Bay, Thursday at Toronto
A few other dates of interest regarding the All-Star Game on February 8th: Jan. 8: All-Star Starters Announced on ESPN and TSN Jan. 9: Complete All-Star Coaches Announced Jan. 22: Complete All-Star Game Rosters Announced on ESPN and TSN
ROUGH NIGHT ALL AROUND
Gary Roberts started the night by putting Tomas Kaberle out the lineup with a strained shoulder. He followed that up with four straight minor penalties, three of which came in the first frame.
Not exactly the way the veteran wanted to lead by example during the Leafs hard-fought victory over Nashville.
"I don't ever remember getting the natural hat trick," Roberts opined after being asked if he'd ever had four minors in one game before. "I was just trying to make something happen."
| Gary Roberts has four minor penalties in the win. (Graig Abel Photography) |
Unfortunately for Kaberle that "something" was injuring his healthy shoulder when the two collided at the blueline while trying to enter the offensive zone. The defenceman is just coming off a shoulder injury that cost him five games in December. He is listed as day-to-day.
Wade Belak also twisted his knee in the third period and will be evaluated in the morning.
"You just can't keep losing guys," Roberts said. "Eventually it's going to catch up with you".
Toronto hopes it isn't over the next two games when they face the Sens and New Jersey Devils on Thursday and Saturday. Both teams will want to make up ground on the Leafs in the standings and with all the injuries it would seem a perfect opportunity for the opposition.
Quinn is hoping an off day to lick their wounds will get the team ready for the big tilts.
OTHER ODDITIES Mats Sundin accidentally threw his broken stick in disgust and it ended up 20 rows deep in the stands. No one was hurt and Sundin replaced the stick with a new one for the fan. Sundin could have been given a match penalty for the offence, but the rulebook also dictates it is at the referee's discretion. Tom Fitzgerald and Bryan McCabe both drew unsportsmanlike penalties Gary Roberts also put out Preds defenceman Jamie Allison out of the game with a hit, which drew one of his minors. Roberts also earned his 400th career assist on McCabe's first goal.