Hain­sey, Rielly get­ting to know each other:

Sunday Sports - - FRONT PAGE - LANCE HORNBY lhornby@post­ @sun­hornby

NI­A­GARA FALLS — They don’t have the mak­ings of a great buddy film, just yet.

But the cast­ing looks right — sar­donic 36-year-old Ron Hain­sey, a vet­eran de­fence­man with the den­tal dam­age to prove it, and Mor­gan Rielly, 13 years his ju­nior, ea­ger to learn from a Stan­ley Cup win­ner. Their pair­ing was one of the first ideas Mike Bab­cock thought of in the sum­mer when Hain­sey signed and the coach’s thoughts turned to fur­ther cut­ting down the Maple Leafs’ league-worst shots against.

“In my trav­els, I’ve played with a few guys over the years,” Hain­sey said Satur­day, his sec­ond day with Rielly at train­ing camp. “In Carolina, we only had 21-year-olds, so we had no choice. I played with Zach Bo­gosian in At­lanta and in Win­nipeg. I’ve been for­tu­nate that I haven’t had a sit­u­a­tion where its was: ‘Geez, this doesn’t re­ally work.’ I don’t an­tic­i­pate this be­ing a prob­lem.

“This is his (Reilly’s) fifth year. He’s a great skater, has great smarts. You’re prob­a­bly just scratch­ing the sur­face of his of­fen­sive abil­ity. It’s so early in his ca­reer, you hope he’ll be here for 15 years.”

The two have had good dis­cus­sions al­ready.

“We’ve had time to get to know one an­other, play with one an­other, talk about how we want to do things,” Rielly said. “That’s the most im­por­tant part about this time of year.

“He was on an amaz­ing run last year (with Pitts­burgh), he’s got a Cup un­der his belt and what­ever he can do to help me is wel­comed.

“Just yes­ter­day, we were talk­ing about the Cup, not so much the grind of win­ning it, but what it was like, how it hap­pened, what was go­ing on dur­ing that time. It’s cool to talk to him about that kind of stuff. You sit down and have a 20-minute con­ver­sa­tion just about com­mon in­ter­ests and then you get to learn about what it takes to win.”

Both men shoot left, but Bab­cock’s plan is to move Rielly to the right side, where he should be more com­fort­able. Rielly’s busiest year as a pro — last sea­son — was spent in large part with Nikita Zait­sev as his part­ner. But Rielly’s an­kle sprain added to grad­ual in­com­pat­i­bil­ity with the rookie Rus­sian.

“We thought Zait­sev and Jake Gar­diner played re­ally well to­gether (but) didn’t think Zait­sev and Rielly were a match made in heaven for what­ever rea­son,” the coach said. “We’re just go­ing to see where it goes. Right now, it gives us two re­ally good pairs and ob­vi­ously the play of (Swedish rook­ies An­dreas) Borgman, (Calle) Rosen and has helped, too. We have much more depth, (Travis) Der­mott looks re­ally good, too. A few years a go, we had no depth.

“With Hain­sey, Rielly is go­ing to be on his fore­hand side and that is go­ing to help him a lot. Hain­sey has been around a long time. He’s smart and is prob­a­bly go­ing to free up some room for him that way.”

Rielly re­ceived a call from Bab­cock about the Hain­sey plan in early July.

“It’s not night and day when you’re chang­ing part­ners,” Rielly said. “It’s just get­ting used to his voice when he’s call­ing for the puck, his tim­ing, my tim­ing and where he likes to re­ceive passes be­cause he’s play­ing his off­side. It’s my job to get used to the way he plays moreso than the other way around.”

One of the rea­sons Hain­sey thought it would be a good fit for him in Toronto were bur­geon­ing blue-lin­ers such as Rielly, but also Bab­cock’s vi­sion to im­prove the over­all de­fence with the same tenets as Bill Peters, who was Hain­sey’s coach in Carolina for a few years.

“Ba­si­cally, us­ing your skat­ing, your stick play to not let the other team get in your zone,” Hain­sey said, “and to con­trol the puck and cre­ate of­fence. Things hap­pen out there and no one gives up zero shots 5-on-5, but the idea is over the long haul, us­ing your abil­ity, the en­tire team and all five guys on the ice. That’s the name of the game.”


Mor­gan Reilly chases the puck dur­ing Satur­day’s train­ing camp work­out in Ni­a­gara Falls. Right, Ron Hain­sey (2) sticks to Wil­liam Ny­lan­der in a scrim­mage on Fri­day af­ter­noon.


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