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Second training camp for Leafs

It would be chic to call this week a mini training camp for the 0-6-1 Toronto Maple Leafs.

It would be chic to call this week a mini training camp for the 0-6-1 Toronto Maple Leafs.

But it might be even more important — and more relevant — than the real training camp. Yesterday was the first of five straight days of practice, a luxury not afforded the team even in its 18-day camp in September.

The Leafs played nine games in their 18-day camp, never having had more than three days in a row to practise those “little things” — like the power play and penalty killing — that players say are so important in the regular season.

Those three days in training camp were at the beginning, with more than 60 players competing for jobs, divided into three groups, with none of the lines working together.

“It’s good to have practices where you have time to work on your system, whether it’s the power play, the penalty kill, your forecheck, the little details where you can stop and say, ‘No, you’re not supposed to be here, you’re supposed to be there,’” said centre John Mitchell. “It would have been nice to have had a few more practices, but we can’t blame that on how we’re playing.”

GM Brian Burke offered only one sentence when asked, in retrospect, if he thought the team could have used more practice and fewer games in training camp. “No, do not agree,” said Burke.

The Leafs’ nine pre-season games were the most in the NHL, tied with Vancouver. The Canucks, too, struggled out of the gate.

By comparison, many of the teams that played six or fewer games, have gotten off to much faster starts.

The Chicago Blackhawks (5-2-1) played only four NHL games in the pre-season, along with two games against European teams.

“We wanted to play six games, and I think we’ll do the same next year,” said Hawks GM Stan Bowman. “We used to play eight, but camp is condensed a bit. You don’t like to play too many games.

“There’s a financial component — if you play fewer games there’s less revenue. But you have to balance that with preparing yourselves. I think six is the sweetspot.”

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