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Pat is definitely on the hot seat. I don't think he will be back next year. And thankfully neither will some of those defencemen.

Kaberle, McCabe reunited as No. 1 pair on blue line

`I'm not beating myself up,' says coach of criticism

Mar. 3, 2006. 01:00 AM

The decision to pair Bryan McCabe and Alex Khavanov on the blue line is dead.

Long live McCabe and Tomas Kaberle.

That was the word from Leafs coach Pat Quinn, who yesterday nixed his troubled, McCabe-Khavanov pairing and reunited McCabe with Kaberle in time for tonight's game in Buffalo.

"I think we'll go back to it," Quinn said of his former No.1 blue line pairing.

"It was a bit of a struggle with those two (McCabe and Khavanov) the other night. Those two were on for all five goals."

Quinn, whose players have been taking criticism for their terrible play over the past two months, couldn't avoid the scrutiny at practice yesterday as the club prepared for a pivotal weekend with games against Buffalo and Ottawa.

His decision-making, systems and personal confidence level came into question. With the Leafs falling from sixth to 11th place in the Eastern Conference since Jan.10, Quinn didn't shy away from the same criticism directed at his players.

"I try not to dwell on criticism ... it goes with a lot of things in life ... I try to approach my job the same way every day," said Quinn, who will definitely be on the hot seat if his club continues to slide further out of the playoff picture.

"No, I don't think about that (hot seat) at all. My focus is on helping these young men play the best they can, and that hasn't changed."

Still, the thinking yesterday among the media was that Quinn's confidence, like his team's, was sagging.

In fact, he referred to some of his players as "saggers," a term he used to describe a lack of confidence.

"The sagger I'm referring to is the person who isn't feeling good about himself. And with our record of late, guys might not be feeling good about themselves," Quinn said.

So, does the coach walk the path of a sagger sometimes, especially during the Leafs' current circumstances?

"No ... I'm feeling fine," he said, smiling.

"I'm not beating myself up. There's less looking at myself, I know who I am. There is me looking at preparation. You look at work at the end of the day and try to determine if you as a coach could change things. But I have a system (for being a coach), I've used and built it for years, and it works, I know it works."

Quinn, despite the fact his job will come into question if the Leafs fail to make the playoffs, carried on with the decision-making process yesterday.

Along with the reuniting of McCabe and Kaberle, he opted to have the team travel to Buffalo today, and spend an extra night with their families last night. Normal NHL procedure, at least for longer trips, is to arrive the night before a game.

Quinn tinkered with the travel schedule, and for good reason. His club is 3-12-4 in Buffalo since 1996. Buffalo has become a Leaf wasteland, something Quinn can't entirely explain.

A little change of pace, something he's exercised before against Buffalo, couldn't hurt, given how wrong everything else has gone with the team.

"We've done this in the past," he said. "There's difficulty explaining our record there, it's confounding for sure. Although this isn't anything different, we've gone the day of the game before, we just have to put aside our record and concentrate on the game."

The final tinkering for tonight could see Wade Belak return to the lineup, although that is not definite. The Leafs failed to respond on Tuesday against Washington when several Caps took obvious runs at the Eric Lindros, who was playing his first game after an 80-day layoff with a wrist injury.

In better times, the Leafs were doing the pushing. Now, they're getting sand kicked in their face, a development prompting Tie Domi to hold back comments yesterday out of fear of creating even more controversy for the win-challenged team.
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