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Maple Leafs downplay talk of revenge heading into game against Devils

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Maple Leafs downplay talk of revenge heading into game against Devils

The Canadian Press
By:

In fact, there's no sign at all that the Leafs are looking to inflict any Wild West justice on the Devils tough guy. Janssen's late hit on Tomas Kaberle has sidelined Toronto's best defenceman for the past two and a half weeks, but the Maple Leafs currently have more pressing concerns.

Heading into Tuesday's rematch with the Devils, none of the Toronto players seemed to be expecting anything more than another game in a long season.

"Every game takes on its own tenor," Leafs coach Paul Maurice said Monday. "The games that you expect to be the wildest, seldom are; and some of the games that come in quietly, go out with a brawl."

Turn on your TV and you'll no doubt see a replay of Janssen's March 2 hit on Kaberle that earned him a three-game suspension. That'll likely be the extent of his punishment for now.

The only retribution the Maple Leafs are seeking is to take two points from one of the Eastern Conference's top teams.

Win or lose, Janssen will spend almost the entire game on the Devils bench.

"I don't think he's going to be a factor," said Leafs tough guy Wade Belak, who has only dressed for two games this month. "Him playing three shifts and us trying to win a hockey game, I don't think we're going to go out of our way to try and get revenge like everybody expects."

The only impact Janssen usually has on a game is the occasional good fight.

The 22-year-old American averages just one shot on goal every five games. He played eight minutes 19 seconds on opening night and hasn't seen that much ice time since.

Janssen is ready for the negative attention he'll likely get from the crowd at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night. Actually, he's hoping to get used to it.

"You can't let it get to you," Janssen told the Newark Star Ledger over the weekend. "This is going to happen my whole career. I just have to deal with it and play my game."

Kaberle is also focusing on playing his game.

On Monday, he participated in his first full practice since suffering a concussion on the hit from Janssen. A decision will be made Tuesday morning on whether he'll make his return later that night against the Devils.

Either way, the Maple Leafs hope to have him back for a home-and-home series with Buffalo on Friday and Saturday.

"I'll be playing soon," said Kaberle. "The headaches are gone."

The smooth-skating defenceman looked comfortable during Monday's practice, wearing a big smile and joking with teammates.

He also spent time after the drills speaking with coach Maurice at centre ice.

Getting him back in the lineup will have more impact on Toronto than anything his teammates could do to get back at Janssen.

"I think the fact that Tomas is feeling good and things are getting back to normal around here, I think the focus should be on that," said forward Darcy Tucker. "Not anything else."

The Maple Leafs have gone 3-3-1 without Kaberle in the lineup.

It's been good enough to keep Toronto in the playoff picture, which has been a common theme for a team that has missed key players for long stretches throughout the season.

Kaberle is third on the team in scoring with 49 points (9-40) and has arguably been the team's most consistent performer. Just seeing him get through Monday's practice was a big deal.

"It's good to have him back on the ice," said Maurice. "We need what he has to offer.

"Knowing that he's close is a good lift for our team."

The Devils enter the game with injury problems of their own.

Forwards Brian Gionta, Patrik Elias and John Madden have all missed time recently with groin issues.

While Elias and Madden could potentially return Tuesday, don't expect the Maple Leafs to go after them, either.

"You hear a lot of talk that we should go after their best players," said Belak. "Well, what's that going to prove? You do that and you're just as bad the guy doing it to you.

"And you just gave the game another black eye. The best way we can hurt them is by beating them like we did last time."

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Maple Leafs downplay talk of revenge heading into game against Devils