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Battaglia finding a home in Toronto

When the Toronto Marlies were looking to add an experienced forward to their lineup, they sparked a reunion between a coach and player who battled together for the Stanley Cup in 2002. It’s no surprise then that the Marlies are looking to Bates Battaglia as a leader on their team.

Battaglia was reunited with his former bench boss Paul Maurice after training camp this year when the Marlies signed the forward to a professional tryout contract. Toronto is hoping that the magic both coach and player had in the 2002 playoffs for the Carolina Hurricanes can take the Marlies a long way this season.

The Chicago native sees his chance to be a leader both on and off the ice with a team that has a mix of youth and veteran talent.

“I think with the younger guys here, it’s the experience I can bring into the room as far as situations I’ve been in,” noted Battaglia, referring to his trip to the Finals with the Hurricanes.

“That was a huge experience for me and the most fun I ever had playing hockey. It definitely has a lot to do with playing (in Toronto) as well. You come into the same situations and hopefully I can show the boys what to do.”

Battaglia’s best season in the NHL was the 2001-02 season in Carolina, when he scored 21 goals and 46 points during the regular season before adding 14 points in the playoffs. Despite missing training camp this fall, his game has started to come along after recording six points in his last six games.

“Physically I was in pretty good shape; the biggest thing was just getting my timing back down and just being out there with the guys. You skate on your own all summer and it’s a little different. I figure I’ve got that back and I feel pretty good out there.”

With officials sticking to the new enforcement of the rules, it has been an adjustment for all players; however, the exhibition season was a time to fine-tune your game. Battaglia didn’t get the chance to learn, dressing for just one pre-season game, and took the first few games of the season to get comfortable with the reduction of obstruction in the game.

“I think for a few games I was having a little trouble with it,” admits Battaglia.

“I think especially for me, I’m a guy that uses my stick a lot and it’s cracking down on some of the things I normally do, so it’s taken a little getting used to. But I think I’ve got my act together now,” says Battaglia, noting the rules are on his side.

“It’s actually come to benefit me when it comes to offensive play.”

As for his new team, the Marlies rough opening to the season was a result of too many penalties and slow starts, especially on the road. Toronto was playing a game of catch-up all too often, but after a pair of road wins over division rivals Hamilton and Rochester, Battaglia sees the Marlies pulling their team game together.

“I think the boys are realizing what we need to do defensively. Our offense comes from our defense. As long as we get that going, I think things will be all right for us.”

If Bates Battaglia and Paul Maurice can recreate the success of their time together in Carolina, then things certainly will be all right for the Marlies in Toronto this year.

John Bartlett is the play-by-play voice of the Toronto Marlies.