Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn, right, battles for the puck against Florida Panthers forward Chris Higgins, left, Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
TORONTO - With the departure of Tomas Kaberle, the second-longest serving Toronto Maple Leaf is being asked to take on an even bigger role.
Luke Schenn wore an 'A' on Saturday in Toronto's 1-0 shootout loss to Ottawa. Although Leafs coach Ron Wilson says injured forward Colby Armstong will likely take on the role as assistant captain when he returns, the defenceman's strong play this season hasn't gone unnoticed.
"He's played really well and been solid for us, so it's definitely a pat on the back for him," said Mike Komisarek, also an assistant captain with Toronto.
At 21 years of age, Schenn has played 208 contests with the Leafs, just two shy of new games' played leader Nikolai Kulemin.
Schenn's 25:26 of ice time versus the Senators was the second-highest total on the Leafs next to captain Dion Phaneuf, the only Toronto player who averages more playing time than Schenn.
"I think it's good," Phaneuf said of Schenn's increased role and responsibility. "He's been around for a bit now, he's played a lot of games in the league and a lot of games for this organization.
"He plays hard every night and does a lot not only in our room but in the community."
Those contributions in the community also had Schenn singled out Saturday as part Armed Forces night, with hundreds of servicemen and women in attendance at Air Canada Centre.
As a rookie, Schenn, now in his third season with Toronto, started a program called "Luke's Troops."
Typically, an Armed Forces member who attends the game as Schenn's guest is identified on the big screen at centre ice and given a loud ovation during a stoppage of play. But this time is was Schenn himself in the spotlight, giving the Armed Forces members—and the ACC crowd—a chance to recognize his contribution.
Despite losing in the shootout Schenn and his teammates spent time mingling with the servicemen and women on the ice after the game.