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Toronto Maple Leafs Clark MacArthur celebrates his goal with Mike Komisarek against the Ottawa Senators during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto, October 9, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (MARK BLINCH)
Toronto Maple Leafs Clark MacArthur celebrates his goal with Mike Komisarek against the Ottawa Senators during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto, October 9, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (MARK BLINCH)

MacArthur aims for big goals <br>after tough summer</br> Add to ...

Clarke MacArthur is the first to admit this past summer was a difficult one.

Left hanging into late July by the Atlanta Thrashers, who walked away from a generous $2.4-million arbitration award, MacArthur had to then work his wedding, a honeymoon in Saint Lucia and a job search into a frantic next few weeks.

After four goals and five points in his first three games with the Leafs - including two in a 4-3 win over the Penguins on Wednesday in Pittsburgh - he's hoping those days of uncertainty are long behind him.

"I was really upset with what happened this summer," MacArthur said. "I'm almost sick and tired of that kind of thing. I want to get on a team here and be a permanent guy somewhere. No one wants to move all over the country every year. It's just one of those things where coming here, with the guys that they have, I want to just be part of building something here and getting things going.

"It was tough on me and my family [playing in different cities last season] Obviously I want to get somewhere where you can gel with the group and be a part of the core group that's sticking around. That's where I'm at in my career. That's enough travel."

MacArthur has obviously had a terrific start with the Leafs, and Toronto's second line was again its best against Pittsburgh on Wednesday. He has one-third of the Leafs goals after three games, helping pace his team to a 3-0-0 start after they bottomed out last season.

A bargain at $1.1-million this season, he believes he can begin to find the net consistently, something that hasn't happened in his previous stops in Buffalo and Atlanta.

"There's times when I'll score five, six games in a row and then I won't score, I'll pass," MacArthur said of his consistency issues. "It changes. This year I want to try and stay more on an even keel. The biggest thing with scoring goals is you have to shoot pucks, and in previous slumps I've had, I'm not shooting the puck and you can't score like that."

It's early days, but he currently has 10 shots in his first three games, a pace far above his previous NHL output. His career shooting percentage (14.7%) is high, however, and if he maintains it while generating more shots on goal, that could translate into a career year - and perhaps his first 20-plus-goal season.

That would likely mean not having to go through the experience of again becoming a free agent late in the summer, when most teams have already added the pieces they want.

"After the wedding, you're a free agent and then you realize everyone's got their guys in July, they've spent all their money," MacArthur said of his summer. "So there's a whole two-week process in August where I didn't even have a job. I had a better year than the year before and I didn't even have a job. I was like, what's going on here?

"One day, one team phoned, and it was like, boom, five teams phoned. So I was like, okay, at least I'm back in the game here."

MacArthur added that part of him was glad to leave Atlanta.

"They offered me my qualifier," he said. "At the time, that was in May, the numbers I had, guys were signing for over $2-million. You get the PA and stuff all over you not to [take the qualifying offer]and I didn't want to do it either. It wasn't the money - it was the fact that, do they even like me there? They don't want to give me a raise when I was due for one and..."

He paused.

"It was just... the hockey there was... it's not a hockey place," MacArthur said. "You know, you've got 8,000 people at games. It's not what I dreamed about."

The full house at the Air Canada Center and his success there so far is more along those lines.

"I had a choice between here and like four or five other teams and I wanted to go where there was going to be pressure, where fans want to see something and they're going to show up every night," MacArthur said. "It's been great for my wife and I. We're really liking Toronto so far.

"I just liked what they had here. I liked the coaching staff, I knew how the GM builds teams. Eventually we're going to win here, something's going to happen that's positive. So I want to just come here and be a part of that."

Asked if he was hoping to also avoid another summer like the one of 2010, MacArthur knocked on wood - literally - on the bench behind him in the visitor's dressing room.

"None of that," he said.

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