Tough Test For Leafs On Friday
Thursday, 12.17.2009 / 3:14 PM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson has ordered up fresh horses for Friday’s road game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Swedish winger Viktor Stalberg has been summoned from the Marlies, presumably to man one of the top two lines.
After a three-game exile, sophomore defenceman Luke Schenn will be back in the lineup against the Sabres. Meanwhile, Jonas Gustavsson, sidelined since Dec. 1 for ablation surgery caused by a racing heartbeat will back up Vesa Toskala. Wilson indicated he plans on using Gustavsson against the Boston Bruins Saturday at the ACC.
The Leafs were on a pleasant 6-2 run through December when the wheels fell off in a 6-3 home loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, Tuesday.
Regaining the momentum built over the month will not be easy, not against a team that has beaten Toronto seven straight times.
The Sabres are backstopped by the formidable Ryan Miller, a shoe-in as the starting goalie for the U.S. Olympic team.
“To play Buffalo, we can’t turn pucks over,” Wilson said. “We have to get as many pucks in front of Ryan as we can and settle down and play our game.”
After scoring six goals in eight pre-season games, Stalberg’s season was rattled when he was hammered by Ottawa’s Anton Volchenkov.
He found his way in the minors and led the Marlies in scoring with eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points in just 19 games.
Like many players, Stalberg found playing up to be easier than playing in the American League.
“You are playing with better players around you. Guys are better positionally and you can’t really run and around and clutch and grab with the two refereree system up here.”
“Of all the people down there he’s got the most NHL skill in terms of his speed, his shot and his size,” Wilson said.
“He’s got to put it all together like he did in training camp.”
Wilson, meanwhile, eschewed any tact when discussing Schenn’s sting out of the lineup.
“I would hope he’s got a fire lit under his rear end,” Wilson said. “We’ll spot him until we feel comfortable that he’s ready to play. I expect him to have a good game, tomorrow night, to be more aggressive than he has been and get his feet moving right off the bat.
“We want him to be better prepared mentally. He debates that but I don’t know how you can make some of the mistakes he has made and say you’re mentally prepared. He hasn’t been and this should reset his computer.”