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Canadian Press
Jan 12, 2007, 3:00 PM EST

TORONTO (CP) - Kris Newbury, Boyd Devereaux and Ben Ondrus are making the most of their chance to stick with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

They've been solid contributors since being summoned from the AHL farm team because of a horde of injuries, and head coach Paul Maurice needs them to keep it up because none of the walking wounded are ready to return. The speed of Newbury and Devereaux has pleased Maurice, who has always liked the grit with which Ondrus plays.

"Kris is quicker and stronger," Maurice says, comparing the Newbury of today to the Toronto Marlies player he coached last year.

"Newbury and Ondrus, you don't ever have to tell them when they come to the bench, 'You should have finished that check,"' Maurice said Friday. "Sometimes you might pull them aside and say, 'You better slow down going in there because you're going to be going to the box.'

"They're fighting every shift."

They're certainly added spunk to the Leafs.

"Newbie is starting to yip a little bit on the bench," said Maurice. "Benny never says more than 10 words a season. He just stares at you and drops his gloves."

The Leafs, buoyed by a 4-2 win Buffalo on Thursday, play the visiting Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET) before flying to Florida where they'll play the Lightning on Tuesday and the Panthers on Thursday.

The only forward nearly ready to return is Alexei Ponikarovsky. The shoulder he hurt is better, but Maurice doubts he'll skate against the Canucks.

"He'd be closest, he'd be the first one in," said Maurice. "Darcy Tucker is the next one in.

"I'm not confident that any of the others would be in before Saturday's game in Pittsburgh. Kyle Wellwood, I'm not expecting."

Neither Tucker, who has a cracked foot bone, nor Wellwood, out with a strained groin muscle, will be on the Sunday flight south.

"It feels better but I still have some discomfort so we'll take it day by day from here on in," said Tucker.

Travis Green was plucked off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks to add penalty-killing and faceoff prowess lost when Mike Peca broke his leg. Green played in Buffalo.

"It's like deja vu," Green said during his first day in the Leafs' Air Canada Centre dressing room since being let go by the team in October 2003.

There's been no indication when Nik Antropov, out since Dec. 6 with a sprained ankle, will be ready. Defencemen Andy Wozniewski and Ian White, both rehabbing shoulder injuries, each need at least another two weeks.

Regardless of who he has in the lineup, Maurice figures rabid puck pursuit is the way to win. It worked in Buffalo.

"We played a style of game that I think we can compete and win with regardless of our injury status," he said. "That's the game that we want to play every night.

"It's difficult to do that, but that has to be our goal."

The Leafs did one of their best checking jobs of the season on the Sabres.

"We've played better defensively for a stretch now," said Maurice. "Five-on-five, we've become a better defensive team.

"To beat that team in the situation we're in in the manner that we did really gave our guys a boost and lifted our confidence level."

Alex Steen is thriving on the top line with Mats Sundin and Jeff O'Neill.

"We've started to find each other," Steen says of the brewing chemistry. "We're having a lot of fun out there. We need to keep it going."

Bryan McCabe's shift to the left defence position appears to have helped his game. He's been paired with Carlo Colaiacovo of late.

"Bryan, since he's been moved back to his left side, has played incredibly well for us defensively," said Maurice.

The Canucks rose to the top of the Northwest Division earlier this week but had a setback in losing 5-2 at home to Minnesota on Thursday.

"They're similar to Boston in some of the technical things they do," said Maurice. "They work really hard and they get great goaltending so this is not going to be, I don't think, a free-flowing, up and down the ice affair.


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As the Leafs showed in Buffalo, they still have enough pieces in the line-up to scrap out some victories.

If they continue to play the way they did then (which is hardly likely, considering their performances after big wins like last night's) they should do okay.

Moreso, it should show the team is much better than their record indicates, missing all those players and still being able to come off with huge win...

But it actually doesn't, because they're brutally inconsistent. :rolleyes:

Yeah, I know: I've hardly said anything concrete.

Um... Blame the Leafs? :dunno:

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The youngins have this chance to show what they got and they're making the most of it so it's safe to say that the Leafs can win without key players.

Players like Alex Steen have definitey stepeped up. He's on fire lately, yeauuuh.

PS: I agree with BE-LEAF-ABLE on how they are brutally inconsistent and if they don't change that, they won't make the playoffs. It's as simple as that.
Especially when the Race for Eighth is pretty tight in the Eastern Conference.

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Cass-Loves_the.Leafs said:
Especially when the Race for Eighth is pretty tight in the Eastern Conference.
So true. A loss today and a win by the Islanders and Capitals can drop them from a tie for 8th (with the Tampa Bay Lightning who are also playing today) all the way down down to 11th in the East, possibly in a tie with Bruins (if Boston win today).

And Boston has 4 games in hand.

This situation could have been avoided had they been more consistent in their first half of the year.

Just a few months ago they were battling Buffalo for 1st. :(

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Yes, and the job they're doing should be giving the rest of the team a spark, but for some reason they just don't seem up to it.

Even after a huge win over the Buffalo Sabres. It doesn't make any sense how they can beat arguably the best team in the league, and yet they let out and absolute stinker the next game.

They win 7-1 over the Washington Capitals, then lose 6 of their next 7 games.

They win 9-2 over the New York Rangers, then lose 3 in a row (starting with a 7-3 loss to the Florida Panthers in their very next game).

They win 5-1 and then double up 10-2 over the Boston Bruins, then lose their next 2, practically giving away 4 points.

How can they continue to pull off these huge victories, and yet feel hardly any momentum afterwards? It just doesn't make any sense.

We can hope that the return of Tucker or Welly would help there, but even with Tucker's aggressive style and Wellwood's exciting play, they were still kind of alive the next game and dead the next. :dunno:
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