TORONTO — David Clarkson and Peter Horachek talked for almost nine minutes on the ice during the Toronto Maple Leafs’ morning skate. The conversation became very animated as they discussed Clarkson being a healthy scratch for a second straight game.
Clarkson and Horachek downplayed the chat, which was a very public display of disagreement between the player and coach.
"That’s a regular, day-to-day occurrence," Horachek said. "Usually it happens in here and you guys don’t get to film it. But it’s an every-day occurrence. We have long conversations and we sometimes go over a lot of different things, but that happens on a regular basis."
Out of the lineup as a healthy scratch for the second straight game Tuesday against the New York Rangers, Clarkson said it was the first chance for he and Horachek to discuss things since Saturday, the first time he was taken out of the lineup.
The 30-year-old with the lofty expectations of a US$36.75-million, seven-year contract has just 10 goals and five assists in 53 games this season. He considers his scratching to be an indictment of the team’s play, not his.
"As a team when you lose 11 in a row I think there’s always things you can do better," Clarkson said Tuesday. "This was something where there was a message being sent, and I’m sure everyone got the message."
Horachek praised Clarkson for handling this situation like a professional. That included his heated reaction on the ice during their conversation.
"He’s fiery and love that," Horachek said. "I have a lot of respect for him, absolutely. He’s proud, he’s a competitor and that’s what we need more of."
Given an opportunity to call Clarkson’s absence a message to the entire group, Horachek did not take that route.
"I think that his play, going from the last game (Friday against New Jersey), we want more," Horachek said. "He’s trying and he’s listening and we ask for things and he tries to do that and is trying to do that. Tonight’s game was more a reflection on just staying with a winning lineup and not changing that."
Talking about his individual play, Clarkson didn’t go into specifics about what he feels he needs to improve on.
"I think individually there’s always ways you can get better, there’s always things you can improve on, and that’s the game of hockey," Clarkson said. "You always want more. As athletes, you’ve got to expect more from yourself and you’ve always got to try to have a higher expectation."