by Matthew Iaboni--mapleleafs.com
It has been a rough month so far for the Maple Leafs and having six straight days of practice is something that the players and head coach Ron Wilson think will help the team overcome their struggles.
“We played well in the preseason but we didn’t have a lot of time together to practice things,” said Luke Schenn
. “These couple of days have been good for our confidence.”
Ron Wilson liked the physicality of the second year blueliner during Tuesday’s practice.
“That was nice to see because he’s struggled a bit and maybe having a practice that is physical will get him playing the way we think he is capable of,” Wilson said.
One player who has carried over his strong play from 2008-09 is Ian White. The 24-year-old from Steinbach, Manitoba leads Leafs defencemen at plus three, is tied for first on the team with four points and is averaging 21:25 of ice time per game.
“Ian has done a great job. He’s had to battle from where he was on the depth chart to being probably our best defenceman,” Wilson said.
White says that he isn’t trying to do anything fancy just make the simple plays.
“This is the NHL, you can’t be a liability out there because you won’t get any ice time,” White said. “I really focused on that my first few years taking care of our own end and then the offence takes care of itself.”
After not practicing on Monday, White showed off the gash above his lip from taking a puck off the face last Saturday against the Rangers.
“A little battle scar makes you look tougher,” he noted.
While White has gotten praise for his strong play, Schenn has struggled in his sophomore year. But he continues to work on his game with the coaches both on and off the ice.
Schenn has recorded two points this season with a minus five rating while averaging just 16:57 of ice time per game.
According to Wilson, having second year players struggle isn’t uncommon.
“It’s a different challenge, the pressures change and you expect more of yourself,” Wilson said.
Schenn worked on his pivoting from going forward to backward with skating coach Graeme Townshend.
“Anytime you get a chance to work with him and even for five to ten minutes with him in practice can translate into a game,” Schenn said.
Schenn’s learning didn’t end there. Once practice came to an end, assistant coach Rob Zettler worked with him on his slapshot and one-timers.
“They’re always willing to help us out before and after practice,” Schenn said.” “There is always something to work on and they are just trying to make you better.”
The Leafs will continue to practice on Wednesday as they prepare for their five-game road trip that begins Saturday in Vancouver.