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Leafs vow to make defensive-zone play a priority in 2019-20

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TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs, who opened training camp with medicals and media availabilities at the Ford Performance Centre on Thursday before flying to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. The Leafs will hit the ice for their first on-ice sessions of camp Friday in Paradise, N.L.

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock made it clear what one priority will be this upcoming season.

"One of the things we have to improve the most is playing in our own zone," Babcock said Thursday on the eve of his team’s first on-ice training camp sessions. "If you look at it and where we are strength-wise in the league offensively we are better than we have been defensively."

The Leafs ranked fourth in goals per game (3.49) last season, but 20th in goals against (3.04). The defence has been remade with Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey and Jake Gardiner leaving and Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci arriving along with many depth options.

"We’ve got left and right shots in our top four," said Babcock, who only had one righty (Zaitsev) in his top six most of last season. "We need (Morgan) Rielly and Barrie to be allowed to do what they do, and then we need Ceci and (Jake) Muzzin to play defence."

Rielly and Ceci skated together........