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(MARK BLINCH)
(MARK BLINCH)

Tim Connolly trying to bump a slump Add to ...

Tim Connolly is not a man the media see around the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room all that much.

The team's oldest forward tends to like to keep a pretty low profile, so it was out of the ordinary when, there he was, standing in street clothes after practice on Friday and answering questions for a camera crew.

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One of the big sports networks had stopped in to do a story on Connolly's deepening slump, which has him with no goals and three assists in his last 15 games and an ugly minus-7 rating over that time.

As quiet and understated as they come in the NHL, Connolly answered questions candidly for a few minutes.

A few minutes later, however, coach Ron Wilson stepped in to defend his player, saying there was nothing to be worried about when it comes to the team's biggest free agent signing this past summer.

"Lots of players go through little dry spells like this," Wilson said. "We around him, his linemates, have to do maybe a little bit better job of pushing the pace a little bit and finishing off the chances. He's sent in a lot of guys on good scoring opportunities and we haven't buried our chances. So I'm not really worried about Timmy at all."

By the third Connolly question, Wilson had heard enough.

"His ice time's only down a little bit," the coach said. "So don't try to make a mountain out of a molehill. You've been sent here to find and dig a story and it's not really there."

Imagine that – someone at Leafs practice looking for a story...

Connolly was signed to a pretty big ticket deal back in July and was expected to play with Phil Kessel on the top line, but it hasn't worked out that way for much of this season.

While his offensive production was solid in the early portion of the year, Connolly has been beaten up a little bit with a couple injuries and lost that first line centre spot to Tyler Bozak. He has struggled to regain his early form since being dropped to a line with Matt Lombardi and Joey Crabb.

Wilson pointed out, however, that he likes Connolly's play on the penalty kill, where he has been a regular of late on the second unit with Nikolai Kulemin.

It's worth noting, too, that Connolly is still on a nearly 50-point pace, despite the fact he has spent only roughly 25 per cent of his ice time with Kessel this season.

Before this recent dry spell, he was giving them some offensive depth – albeit at a pretty hefty price. With Mikhail Grabovski in need of a new contract, one has to wonder where Connolly fits in next season.

Here were a few of his own thoughts on his recent drought:

"We've just go to try and create more chances. I've got to try and get the puck and put my linemates in scoring areas and put more pucks to the net. Just try and get a greasy goal and help out our top two scoring lines.

"I think the team as a whole has been playing really well. Those two lines have been really clicking offensively of late and are our top two scoring lines right now. Our line's just got to try and get more chances and that starts with me.

"I hope so. [That the offence is coming.]We'll find out tomorrow night. You've got to stay positive and just keep working. I'm playing with two guys that really work hard, that really skate hard and do a lot of little things right... We've just got to keep going, keep grinding it out, try and get an ugly goal. That's really what we want to accomplish.

"Winning hockey games makes it easier, so you just keep working."

Notebook

- James Reimer gets the start on Saturday against Montreal. No real surprise there as it's clear the organization still views him as the No. 1.

- Nikolai Kulemin missed practice Friday as his wife was going into labour with their second child earlier in the day. He is still expected to play on Saturday.

- Rumour has it Darryl Boyce could get worked into the lineup for Saturday although who comes out isn't yet known.

- And here's a trivia question for those of you who haven't already seen the answer on Twitter: Who is the only current Leafs player to have played in a regular season game with Mats Sundin? (Sundin will be honoured by the team prior to Saturday's game.)

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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