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Northeast: Schenn fights way onto Leafs' roster

by John McGourty
Luke Schenn is making it very difficult for the Toronto Maple Leafs to send him back to juniors, and he's getting help from teammates in sick bay. With defensemen Jeff Finger and Pavel Kubina nursing injuries, the Maple Leafs have a real need for the No. 5 pick in this past summer's Entry Draft.

Schenn is physically well-equipped at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds and his engaging personality masks his rough, on-ice side.

Schenn won gold medals for Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championship, where he led the team with a plus-5 rating, and at the 2007 Super Series, eight games against Russia. So he has the high-level international experience that NHL general managers like to see.

There is little for Schenn to learn if he goes back to juniors. At most, he's giving his body a chance to grow even more before being asked to take on NHL-sized players. But Schenn is already NHL-sized, if not more.

Coach Ron Wilson was restrained in his praise for Schenn's preseason performance, but Wilson usually is reserved.

"He's played well and he's done everything we've asked. He's earned the right to start the season here -- nothing more," Wilson told reporters Tuesday. "Basically, he's postponed the decision-making process. ... We've played him against quality, now we'll see when the intensity goes up during the regular season.

"We'll monitor how he plays. If we think he's physically, emotionally, and mentally ready, he'll stay. It's all about what we project for him, the kind of defenseman he will be."

Gerber's early struggles -- The Ottawa Citizen's Ken Warren got the jump on Halloween, invoking the ghost of Damian Rhodes in his column Wednesday about Senators goalie Martin Gerber's penchant for giving up a goal on the opposition's first shot. Gerber surrendered a goal on the first shot he saw this season when Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tyler Kennedy beat him in Stockholm on Saturday at 41 seconds of the first period. Gerber had also given up goals on the first shot he faced in two preseason games.

According to Warren, Rhodes would often give up a goal on the first shot of the game.

The Senators outplayed the Penguins on Saturday (and Sunday too, when they won) but lost 4-3 in overtime because Gerber was not sharp. He was replaced, as scheduled, by backup Alex Auld on Sunday when the Senators won 3-1. Gerber said he is in good shape and that his fundamentals are sound but he has a few things to work on.

"They were more small things," Gerber said. "I felt all right, it just seemed like a couple of times the puck went through me. I was in good position, but I was giving a little too much hole than I should have and the puck just squeezed through there."

Bruins, Sens mourn death -- The Boston and Ottawa sports communities were shocked and saddened by the Sept. 29 death of Scott Cashman, the 1990 Hockey East rookie of the year while leading Boston University to the NCAA Frozen Four as a goaltender. Cashman was even more impressive the next year, when he led a star-studded Terriers team to the NCAA Final, losing 8-7 to Northern Michigan, with Dallas Drake, in what many think is the greatest college hockey game ever played. Cashman died of a heart-related ailment at the age of 39.

Cashman's BU teammates included Shawn McEachern, now an assistant coach at UMass-Lowell; St. Louis Blues star Keith Tkachuk; longtime NHL forward Tony Amonte; David Sacco, who played for Toronto and Anaheim; Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs center Dave Tomlinson; defensemen Scott Lachance and Peter Ahola, who both played for four NHL teams; Phil Von Stefenelli, who played for Boston and Ottawa; and the twins, Mike and the late Mark Bavis.

Cashman was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars, who transferred his rights to San Jose who moved him to the Detroit Red Wings organization. Cashman played only three games for the AHL Adirondack Red Wings in 1993 before he broke his tailbone. Doctors diagnosed a degenerative bone condition, and Cashman immediately retired.

Coach Jack Parker credited Cashman and his classes with rejuvenating the Terrier hockey program, leading to the successful recruitment of the players that won the 1995 NCAA championship, future NHL players Chris Drury, Mike Grier, Shawn Bates, Rich Brennan, Jay Pandolfo, Chris O'Sullivan and Jacques Joubert.

Cashman backstopped three BU teams to the coveted Beanpot Trophy and was named MVP of the tournament twice. He was admitted into both the Boston University Hockey Hall of Fame and the Beanpot Hall of Fame in 2005.

Cashman is survived by his wife, Sherry, and children Markie and Johnny.

Choice cuts -- The final reduction of rosters produced some interesting developments. The Bruins waived Peter Schaefer, who has been slowed by leg problems but had two years remaining on his contract. Center Carl Soderberg, trying to make the Bruins after a bad eye injury, will return to Sweden, and defenseman Mike Egener, 24, retired. Egener and Soderberg were second-round draft picks while Schaefer was a third-rounder in 1995. Defensemen Matt Lashoff and Matt Hunwick were both returned to Providence.

The Senators like what they saw in 21 games from center Cody Bass last year, but with Mike Fisher returning to good health, Bass was shipped to the Binghamton Senators for a little more seasoning. Former Colgate star Jesse Winchester, a free agent, beat out Bass and had an assist on Antoine Vermette's goal Sunday against Pittsburgh.

There was less surprise that former Wisconsin NCAA championship goalie Brian Elliott was also sent to Binghamton. His fate was sealed when the Senators signed Auld. Elliott, a ninth-round pick in 2003, will be the No. 1 goalie in Binghamton, ahead of Jeff Glass. Elliott and Glass had losing records but good goals-against averages and save percentages last year. Their development puts more pressure on Gerber and Auld.

Sabres name Rivet captain -- Craig Rivet's announcement as captain of the Buffalo Sabres is a surprise for several reasons. Coach Lindy Ruff has favored co-captains and rotating captains in the past, and that's no surprise. Ruff served as co-captain of the Sabres with Gilbert Perreault, then held the role alone, then was co-captain with Mike Foligno.

Ruff went with a rotating cast of monthly captains last year, ending with Jason Pominville. It was thought Pominville might have the inside track this year, but Jaroslav Spacek, Teppo Numminen and Derek Roy also deserved strong consideration.

Rivet will make an excellent addition to the Sabres' roster and has the experience, intelligence and personal strength to do well in the role. What this corner found surprising is that the Sabres have a strong bond among players who have progressed through the organization, and this selection appears to honor someone that those players might regard as an outsider.

Perhaps Ruff and General Manager Darcy Regier felt there were too many homegrown players with an almost equal claim to leadership. That idea seems to be reflected in the choice of four alternate captains to support Rivet: Numminen, Spacek, Pominville and Jochen Hecht.

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