This season is shaping up to be sink or swim time for the kids. Staffan Kronwall and Jiri Tlusty will make the trip to coal country in anticipation of the Leafs game against the Penguins.
Jiri Tlusty will definitely be making his NHL debut one day after another highly-touted prospect patrolled the blueline. He practiced with Antropov and Devereaux which is not much of a surprise since Antro has been dynamite regardless of his linemates this year. Looking at the Leafs' roster and knowing Maurice's relationship with Battaglia I would think that he is a likely candidate to make way for Tlusty. However, after that brain-dead interference penalty my money would be on Wade Belak finding himself back in the press box.
Kronwall is being called up as cover for Bryan McCabe in case he cannot play:
Coach Paul Maurice would only call McCabe's ailment a "mild sprain" but he would not specify the body part the veteran defenceman is nursing.
My guess is that he didn't want to identify the brain as the part of McCabe that is sprained. Actually, that's not fair. McCabe played a decent enough game. Not $5.75M decent but maybe about $2M decent. He's throwing the double ass-cheek check around and was even spotted directing play intelligently in the defensive zone. No word yet if the brain sprain might actually be the cause of the improvement. As it stands, somehow Wozniewski is going to weasel his way back into the lineup at the expense of Stralman which will leave the two Swedish defencemen battling for a spot if McCabe does miss the game.
At least this year the Leafs are showing more of a willingness to sit underachievers in favour of blooding their youth which might seem like little more than re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic but it's a step in the right direction for the future of the franchise.
"Either through injury or average play, we'd like to see some of these kids get a chance," said Maurice. "I don't know that we're expecting a young guy to go in and steal a job and dominate the league but they've got to start somewhere and I think you've got to get them in your lineup and makes changes when you're not happy with the overall performance of your team."
This season is already a huge one for the likes of Alex Steen, Matt Stajan, Kyle Wellwood, Carlo Colaiacovo, Nik Antropov, and Alex Ponikarovsky. These guys have this year and possibly next to show that they are key to the Leafs' future/present and so far they (less the injured parties) have shown that they have a part to play. If the 'veterans' continue along their current path then hopefully more youth will get a chance to show that they are ready to take the reins.