by John McCauley
March 21, 2006(TORONTO)
-- Status quo is something Pat Quinn has taken out of his vocabulary.
The veteran bench boss tinkered with his lineup Tuesday night inserting rookies Brendan Bell and Alexander Suglobov.
Healthy scratches Tie Domi and Clarke Wilm watched their mates earn a 3-2 win Tuesday over the Carolina Hurricanes to move them within four points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
It was the second time since Domi hit the 1000-game plateau that he was given the night off. Clearly this is a sign from Quinn that he is going to put people in the lineup that he believes they can help the team win no matter how many feathers are ruffled.
|Nine rookies have played for the Maple Leafs so far |
this year. (Graig Abel Photography)
"It has been our young guys that you don't think of taking out," Quinn said.
Toronto has had trouble putting the puck in the net 5-on-5 all season and Suglobov, acquired for Ken Klee from the New Jersey Devils, does have an offensive flare even if it comes at a price.
"I thought for his first game he did a nice job," said Quinn. "As with most offensive players he has some risk to his game."
Taking the risk out of their game however has put them in a position to still be in the playoff hunt after dreadful months of January and February.
"It is what it," said Quinn of his team's playoff predicament. "We've got to get past a couple teams. We'll have to look after our business. The fact is every game is a playoff game."
Also missing was Wade Belak, who was on leave attending to his pregnant wife. Bell replaced him via an emergency callup but it isn't likely that he will make the trip to Montreal. He was solid in his 14 minutes of ice time and may warrent a further look down the line.
Jeff O'Neill was back in the saddle again playing with Mats Sundin and seemed to have more jump in his stride. He was throwing body checks around and he assisted on two of the team's three powerplay goals.
It was his best game in months but even more important he was contributing 5-on-5 and not just the PP. The Leafs will need him to continue his improvement against the Canadiens. O'Neill adds another scoring threat that opposing defences must pay attention to.
Quinn has been able to get the most out of his players in the past by being loyal beyond what many fans and media would expect or want to see during his tenure, but you can't argue with his success.
Clearly desperate times have called for desperate measures and the head coach isn't going to let loyalty or previous performance dictate who gets to play.