TORONTO -- Paul Ranger really likes pizza. Not just any pizza, but the kind that he can get from the Riverside Restaurant in Cornwall, Ont., with his uncle. Now in Toronto and closer to family than he was as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning years ago, he can spend time away from the rink debating what pizza joint is best and finding balance in life. Because of that, Ranger has begun to write the second chapter of his NHL playing career and was named the Maple Leafs Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy nominee for "perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." Ranger learned that he was chosen for that honour Wednesday morning, 49 games into what he considers the renewal of his career more than four years after abruptly leaving the Lightning for personal reasons he still wont reveal. What the 29-year-old does say about version 2.0 of his hockey-playing life only hints at why he left and what made him come back. "What makes it easier for my second go-round is just that experience on how to handle different pressures from the outside, pressures on the ice and really just how to go about it and live your life and balance," Ranger said. "Balance is huge. It makes for a much healthier lifestyle. It makes for a much healthier, I think, mind, on the ice, as well." On the ice, the defencemans game is still rounding into form but isnt quite as good as hed like it to be. But his mind seems to be at peace with the sports importance in his life because Ranger has been able to spend time reflecting and placing value on different things. "You get away, you try different things, you do different things, you focus on other areas of your life that you love and that make you good," he said. "Too much of one good thing it can kind of become a mental battle sometimes. ... When you have that balance, everything seems to work a lot more smoothly, a lot more comfortably and positively." One of those positives is family, like being able to have his mother and father closer than they were when he was in Tampa. Friends make the support group even bigger. "Once in a while Ill get to see some of my closest friends, my high-school friends, my best friends," he said. "Everyone needs a break outside of work and outlets for different parts of life, and thats one of them for me." Outlet from what, exactly, Ranger wont say. Asked at the end of a 13-minute conversation with reporters to shed even a bit of detail on what caused him to leave the Lightning early in the 2009-10 season, he politely but firmly responded: "No. Im not willing to go there. Thank you, though." In general terms, Ranger repeatedly talked about "challenges" on and off the ice. That included playing last year for the AHLs Toronto Marlies, then signing a one-year deal with the Leafs and making the team out of training camp. "Lots of challenges, but when you overcome them, thats the coolest part of it," Ranger said. "Thats the most fun. You look at yourself in the mirror and say you did it. And thats huge, for everybody. Every person in the world goes through that kind of thing at some point in their lives, and I think its important to be able to challenge yourself and to recognize and give yourself some credit." Ranger noticed and appreciated the credit and recognition opponents around the league and former teammates have afforded him this season. He took special pride in reconnecting and building "genuine" relationships with a couple of players he spent time with in Tampa, too. Very little of Rangers time talking about his journey back to the NHL had anything to do with hockey, other than to say it has been a success. The Whitby, Ont., native said he never had any doubts about returning after such an extended absence. "No. This is the right thing for me to do," Ranger said. "This is the thing for me to do to grow and to overcome all the challenges that Ive had on and off the ice. This is the path, and Im committed to it. "I cant really put it all into words, but this is it. Its going to help me until I reach 150 (years old) and riding my Sea-Doo around somewhere and Im going to look back and smile and just say I did it." As hes in the process of doing it, hes earning respect along the way. "When a guy misses that amount of time and claws himself (onto a roster) and grabs an opportunity, youve got to take your hat off to him," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "Any individual thats gone through what hes gone through, now hes playing the highest level of hockey there is in the world and hes earning his stripes." Whether earning those stripes means Ranger will be back with the Leafs next season is unclear. He insists he hasnt pondered that possibility and immediately brought the focus back to the present and what he and his teammates need to do in the final games of the season. Even if the Leafs season ends without a playoff berth, thats not the end of Rangers world, though he brought up Wednesday that he has a theory on how to win a championship in a city like Toronto. Hes just not willing to reveal that quite yet, either. "I cant say Ive figured it out because it hasnt been put to the test yet," he said. "But I just know for me it works. Im in no way ready to comment on it. This is something that perhaps I would tell you after we win the championship." Shea Theodore Golden Knights Jersey
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. -- The Detroit Lions made it crystal clear to Golden Tate that he was their top target in free agency. BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Tight end Martellus Bennett has been suspended indefinitely by the Bears after an altercation in practice the day before. General manager Phil Emery says the team "made a decision to fine and suspend Martellus Bennett for an undetermined length of time," though he wouldnt specify the amount of the fine. On Monday, Bennett was taken to the ground Monday with a grab to the shoulder by rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller. The play occurred during a full-pad scrimmage when players are not supposed to be taken to the ground. Bennett responded by getting up, grabbing the first-round draft pick and slamming him to the ground. Emery wouldnt go into specifics about why the decision was made, saying only, "He was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team." Neither Emery nor coach Marc Trestman would characterize it as making an example of Bennett, who has been involved in several practice scrapes this training camp, and a few last year, as well. "I play hard, go hard every single day," Bennett said Monday after practice. "Im probably one of the most violent people on the field. Thats just my style of play. Thats how I play. Im going to continue to play the way I play. Thats what Im here for. "Im not really here . everybodys talking about friendships. Really, were all preparing for a championship. If we make friends along the way, thats cool. But at the end of the day, Im just trying to help the Bears win a championship and the do the job to the best of my ability." When asked by reporters about the possibility of a fine, Beneentt said, "I can afford it.ddddddddddddI dont see what he can fine me for on that." Bennett will not be with the team at camp until the suspension is lifted. "Ill be talking with him today," Trestman said. "Weve got a plan and a process in place. We want to go through this process and when the time is right hell be back." Fuller was not punished for the incident. "Its a tough situation," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "I thought Kyle did a great job of handling himself." Wide receiver Brandon Marshall was seen shouting at Bennett after the incident in Mondays practice. Marshall did not practice Tuesday, but Trestman called it a coachs decision to give him rest and not punishment for the words he had with Bennett. Dante Rosario and Zach Miller filled in at Bennetts spot Tuesday. "Things happen during these moments and nothing of it has lingered with our football team," Trestman said. "We had one of our better practices today." NOTES: WR Marquess Wilson broke his collarbone in Mondays practice and had surgery Tuesday. Trestman said the Bears would be looking to fill his roster spot with a signing, while also weighing the skills of the other receivers. ... DE Jared Allen missed a third straight practice for what Trestman called "family reasons." ... CB Tim Jennings continued missing practice with a quad injury ... CB Isaiah Frey left Tuesdays practice with a hamstring pull. ... RT Jordan Mills left toward the end of Tuesdays practice with foot soreness. ' ' '