SNAP SHOTS Bab­cock stayed in touch by phone with the Leafs kids in sum­mer, but re­fused to talk hockey ... Call from coach helped sway Aal­to­nen ... Matthews gets the lone scrim­mage goal

Sunday Sports - - SPORTS -

Mike Bab­cock’s cell phone bill likely spiked last sum­mer with calls around North Amer­ica and the world.

But that’s OK. First, his team is owned by two com­mu­ni­ca­tions giants who might give him a break on a long-dis­tance plan. Sec­ond, some of those calls were to his youngest Leafs, a re­minder he’s think­ing of their well-be­ing.

“I got young peo­ple in my house and they like when peo­ple talk to them,” Bab­cock said of his grown chil­dren. “Peo­ple like to know you care about them. I care and I want them to do well, so I touch base and let them know what’s go­ing on.

“We have a busi­ness ar­range­ment with them with­out ques­tion. Say­ing all that, I do my best when I’m on the phone with them to never, ever talk about hockey, train­ing or any­thing like that. That usu­ally comes in the sec­ond half of the sum­mer.”


Mor­gan Rielly

re­ceived a cou­ple of those calls from Bab­cock at the de­fence­man’s home in West­ern Canada,

Miro Aal­to­nen but cen­tre

was shocked to pick up his phone one sum­mer day in Fin­land and hear the Leafs coach on the other end.

Aal­to­nen had ended his KHL con­tract with Po­dask Vityaz and was con­sid­er­ing his NHL op­tions.

“Pretty im­pres­sive,” Aal­to­nen said of be­ing wooed in such a way. “It was a sur­prise call. A cou­ple of teams (had ex­pressed in­ter­est), but right away, I wanted to sign in Toronto.” Aal­to­nen has been used

Con­nor as a cen­tre with Brown

so far at camp, try­ing to get no­ticed for pos­si­ble fourth-line duty, though he’d have to get past vet­eran Do­minic Moore

at least. “This has been a good ex­pe­ri­ence, to fix my game to NHL style,” said Aal­to­nen. “I’m try­ing to play two-way. I need to win face­offs and play hard.”

Leo Ko­marov Winger has helped his coun­try­man adapt to the ice and North Amer­i­can/Toronto cul­ture, set­tling him in an apart­ment for use as a Leaf or Mar­lie.

“Leo jas been great. He told me just to be my­self and en­joy this,” Aal­to­nen said.


De­fence ruled in Satur­day’s scrim­mage game, a

Aus­ton Matthews’ 1-0 win for

team on his own re­bound goal. But Matthews was stopped in an ex­hi­bi­tion shootout, with Ko­marov get­ting the only goal as par­tial re­venge for the Whites. Matthews

Mitch Marner’s and lines, the same as last sea­son, went head-to-head.

“We had a good forecheck day. The rest is just get­ting guys up to speed,” Bab­cock said of the low score af­ter Fri­day’s 3-0 re­sult. “It’s Day 2 and guys don’t last very long as much as they’ve trained (in sum­mer). We have to get used to play­ing, run­ning into each other and com­pet­ing, but I think we’re go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

Af­ter one more scrim­mage Sun­day, the lineup for Mon­day’s ex­hi­bi­tion opener in Ot­tawa will be cho­sen and cuts are pos­si­ble from the camp ros­ter of 73.


Bab­cock’s vague de­scrip­tion

Nikita Zait­sev’s of “mid­dle body” is­sue on Fri­day turned out to be clever code that the Rus­sian de­fence­man’s wife, Margo, was giv­ing birth. Daugh­ter Vera was born that night ... De­fence­man

Ro­man Po­lak, who is on a PTO, prac­tised for the first time Satur­day, but did not play in the scrim­mage ...

Eric Fehr, Winger who got into only one game last year, was able to work on his skat­ing all sum­mer while his badly bro­ken fin­ger healed from surgery. That, and his abil­ity to get just enough of a hand grip on his stick, means he still has a chance to con­tend for a fourth-line job ... So far, the pro­jec­tion of nine jobs for 10 for­wards on the top three lines has seen Brown the one with­out a seat, play­ing with Aal­to­nen. But Bab­cock says it’s far too early in camp to as­sign per­ma­nent jobs. “He’s not tak­ing this for an an­swer,” cack­led the coach on what Brown can still do. “He looks at the lineup, he doesn’t think this is re­ally go­ing to hap­pen. I wouldn’t worry too much about Brownie.” ... Toronto gen­eral

Lou Lamor­iello man­ager

Jared de­clined to re­spond to Cowen’s

an­gry com­ments from ear­lier this week when the brief Leafs de­fence­man, now on a PTO in Colorado, ripped man­age­ment for its han­dling of his med­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, which sub­se­quently cost him around $3 mil­lion US when he lost an ar­bi­tra­tion case re­gard­ing his buy­out.


Winger Kasperi Ka­pa­nen (right) leans into Nolan Val­leau dur­ing yes­ter­day’s Maple Leafs scrim­mage Leafs at the Gale Cen­tre in Ni­a­gara Falls. The Leafs open their ex­hi­bi­tion sched­ule to­mor­row night against the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors.

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