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Toronto Marlies defenseman Marc Moro has skated a little lighter this season, which is the type of thing that happens when you toss an anchor off your back.

Moro shoved his aside early, in the third game of the season against Grand Rapids when he scored a goal. It was his first since the 2004-05 AHL season, and his first-ever with the second-year Marlies.

Finding the back of the net in the odd season or two is usually a fringe benefit in the case of a stay-at-home defenseman like Moro. Not this time. Moro may be getting a tad older - he's 29 - but he refuses to drift out of touch. He saw all his buddies jumping into the pool of new offensive hockey and he was itching to get a little wet, too.

Consider last season an adjustment period in that regard.

"Last year, I probably might have gripped my stick too hard, or over-thought at the time," he said. "It (scoring) was always in the back of my mind. It became a bit of a fair joke in the room as the year went on."

Moro's thoughtful - and sarcastic - teammates even offered him the puck after the Grand Rapids game. Moro said uh-uh. Scoring is good, but Moro still earns the notches on his belt for keeping the puck out of the net. His consistency at that task has made Moro as close to the face of a franchise as probably any active player in the AHL.

He's in his sixth year with the Toronto organization, four with St. John's and two with the Marlies. He's been captain of the Marlies the past two seasons and held the same job his last year with St. John's.

This season may be his greatest challenge. Surrounded by a mostly unproven defense, Moro, goal-scorer or not, has been the gold standard in effort and consistency.

"If the young players are smart, he's the type of player you want to watch,'' said Toronto coach Greg Gilbert. "Marc is well grounded. He knows what his job is, what his responsibilities are."

At a packed 6-foot-1, 229 pounds, those responsibilities include a lot of hitting, some fighting and setting an example for non-stop sweating.

"It's one thing to be preaching. But you've also got to be the guy who backs it up," Moro said. "You can't expect a team to go out and work hard if you're not the hardest-working guy. Not every night are you going to be 100 percent. But to me, it's giving 100 percent of what you've have."

Sometimes not even that’s enough to get you where you want to go. Moro hasn't cracked the NHL since 2001-02, when he got 13 games with Nashville and two games with his hometown Maple Leafs. Predictably, given Moro's organization-first outlook, that doesn't dim his personality a bit.

"I'm in a good situation here. I'm a Toronto boy," Moro said. "Growing up, I dreamed of playing with the Leafs. I'm one step short of that. It's not a bad step short."

Moro has grown so comfortable that he's even added a second goal this season, to go along with three assists. That puts him on pace for a career-best points total, by far. Might this be a new Moro, one who's sniffing out chances to jump up on the play?


"You know what? I broke the goose egg," he said. "I'm happy with that. (Setting a numbers goal) would be a jinx for me."
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