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Leafs Prospect Gets A Taste

Saturday, 05.04.2003 / 9:44 PM / News
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Leafs Prospect Gets A Taste
by John McCauley

TORONTO -- Talk about a dream week for Leafs' prospect Matt Stajan.

Not only did he sign his first professional contract, but then found himself inserted into the Leafs' final regular season lineup, centering Gary Roberts and Owen Nolan. Can you say unbelievable? Not done yet.

The 19-year-old topped everything off with first career NHL goal in a 3-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. It was the final regular season game of the year. The Leafs finished with 98 points and a record of 44-28-7-3.
Mats Stajan capitalized on a Senators' turnover for his first NHL goal.
Graig Abel Photography


Don't expect to see the youngster suiting up when the Leafs and Flyers start their first round playoff series this week. The only reason Stajan got to experience the NHL was because Pat Quinn decided to rest a few in the hopes of avoiding injuries.

Robert Reichel and Alex Mogilny were given the night off while Mats Sundin is recovering from the puck he took in the lips during Thursday's win over the Wild.

Sundin's injury made even the toughest wince in pain, especially after the thought of the numerous root canals and stitches needed to repair the damage. Thankfully for the Leafs their captain will be ready for the playoffs.

"It feels a lot better today. I spent the whole day at the dentist yesterday (Friday). It's still a little sore," Sundin said.

Sundin might have to wear a shield and a mouth guard when he returns. His equipment decision will be made on Monday. There was a concern that the super Swede wouldn't be able to keep his strength up because he's been taking everything through a straw, but solid nourishment will be on the menu by Sunday.

Others still injured are Travis Green, Glen Wesley, Doug Gilmour and Tom Fitzgerald, who is out for personal reasons. All but Gilmour and Wesley are expected to be back. Wesley is skating and could be a surprise starter when the series begins.

Injuries didn't hold back the Leaf debut of Phil Housley. The veteran paired up with Bryan McCabe and showed some of the passing skills he was acquired for. Housley is coming off an eight-week layoff, recovering from a broken bone in his foot. Considering the length of his absence, his play was solid.

Even though Housley is 39 years old, the thought of playing in his first game as a Leaf was still nerve racking.

"I'm nervous before every game. If I'm not nervous I'm in trouble," Housley said. "I'm just going to do the best I can out there and let my experience take over."

Quinn was happy to hear his deadline acquisition was anxious.

"When the butterflies disappear it's time to start looking for another line of work," Quinn said.

Roberts returned from a groin injury, which he has been babying over the past week. He tested it out quickly, throwing a couple body checks and showing some speed on the forecheck.

Trevor Kidd got the start instead of Ed Belfour, who was originally supposed to be between the pipes. With the game meaningless, Quinn felt risking an injury to his goaltender wasn't worth the extra work he may have desired.

The Leafs begin preparation for their first-round battle on Monday.
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