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Leafs coach Horachek urges players to think of hockey, not trade rumours @NHL

MONTREAL - There's no getting away from trade talk for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Interim coach Peter Horachek says there's no use trying to avoid the subject with rumours swirling about his team heading into the March 2 NHL trade deadline.

"It comes up all the time, there's no way to get around it," Horachek said as Toronto prepared for a Saturday night meeting with the rival Montreal Canadiens. "You (reporters) bring it up, and we have to bring it up sometimes, talking about the trade deadline and different things."

Horachek's message to his players is not to dwell on the approaching deadline or if they'll finish the season in Toronto or not.

"Even if they get traded or something happens, you don't have full control over that, but you do have control over (your performance)," said Horachek. "If you're going to get down about it, that's not in your best interests."

The Leafs came into Montreal with an 0-11-1 record in their last 12 road games and were 2-13-1 since Horachek replaced Randy Carlyle as head coach.

For a second straight game, Horachek held an optional morning skate rather than have the entire team on the ice. About 12 Leafs took part.

He hopes it changes the team's luck.

"When we went 10-1-1 (in late November and early December) every game day was an optional skate," he said. "So we went back to that.

"When we were trending well, that's what we were doing."

The talk this week was the Leafs are about to start dealing players before the deadline and begin rebuilding the squad.

Centre Nazem Kadri expects more of a retooling than a full rebuild.

"It's not like we're going to have 25 new players," said Kadri. "I'm assuming there are guys that will stick around, that have been here through the good and the bad."

While the Leafs struggle, the Canadiens are battling for top spot in the Eastern Conference.

But coach Michel Therrien was not pleased with a error-filled 4-3 overtime loss at home to Edmonton on Thursday night and changes were expected. Forward Manny Malhotra and defenceman Mike Weaver are to return to the lineup, while Jiri Sekac and Tom Gilbert are likely to sit.

Sekac hasn't scored in 18 games since Dec. 29.

Therrien may also move Lars Eller to left wing and have impressive rookie Jacob de la Rose play at centre.

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