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Canadian Press
9/29/2006 4:16:00 PM

TORONTO (CP) - Kyle Wellwood will play a key role with the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.

He's one of those small and crafty forwards who are being unleashed as a result of the NHL's crackdown on obstruction, and new head coach Paul Maurice might even use him on the left side of the first line with Mats Sundin and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

''I like that Alexei is big and strong and can control the puck in the offensive zone, and Mats needs somebody so that he's not the only guy battling down low,'' coach Paul Maurice explained when asked about the combination after practice Friday. ''We're encouraging him to try and take the puck strong down the boards, hang onto it and drive it out to the front of the net with his size and strength.

''Kyle has the ability to think and to handle the puck a little bit like Mats and to move the puck around. There's no substitute for intelligence and he and Mats, in the time they've spent together, have started to work little plays off the boards.''

The possibility that Wellwood might be on the first line for the season opener Wednesday shows how far the 23-year-old forward has progressed in the organization's eyes.
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