Leafs need to work out some kinks

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

DETROIT -- If this was a sneak peak at the Maple Leafs opening-night roster, it's a good thing they have one more dress rehearsal tonight.

Toronto showed it need to iron out a few kinks and lineup spots in a 4-2 loss to the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, its third consecutive exhibition loss.

"That was fairly close (to Wednesday's starting 20 against Ottawa) and we liked part of it," coach Paul Maurice said after a long post-game huddle with management. "We'll move around some guys. If we all stay healthy, we see what happens tomorrow. I didn't care much for our power play (2-for-9, though the Leafs were short-handed just twice)."

The forward lines brought the most scrutiny, with two or three units set to open as they looked last night, but no sign of Jeff O'Neill and few clues from the coach about his status tonight against the Wings at the Air Canada Centre. If he doesn't play, it's likely he's in the press box Wednesday and perhaps finished as a Leaf. Energetic play from the kids has not helped his cause.

"Being a veteran and being talented does not guarantee you a spot in the lineup," Maurice said. "I think it's a physical thing. He's had two shoulder injuries."

There also were injuries to account for last night's look, such as Ben Ondrus and three defencemen who might start the year on injury reserve.

Mats Sundin centred Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kyle Wellwood and while this projected first line cycled the puck well in the Detroit zone, they were shut out as the Wings overcame two one-goal Leaf leads.

"It takes a while to get (comfortable), but at the same time, you can't have a spell at the start of the year where you struggle," Sundin said.

Mike Peca centred Nik Antropov and Chad Kilger, a line Peca says he has been told could be together on Wednesday. But Antropov still looks a step behind Maurice's go-go game plan and Kilger hasn't been a camp standout either.

"I think it's a line that can bring a lot of different things," a hopeful Peca said. "They're big, but Chad is one of the best skaters in the league."

The Matt Stajan-Darcy Tucker- Alex Steen combo were caught backing up when Johan Franzen got loose for the game winner at 7:40 of the third, while Krys Kolanos found a hole under Andrew Raycroft's crossbar at 11:48. The goals came after Raycroft mishandled a clearing attempt on a first-period Leaf power play that led to a tight angle Daniel Cleary goal. He gave up four goals on 22 shots, but as the designated starter, can afford one bad game. He'll be back in tonight.

"It's early and we haven't had a full lineup yet," Raycroft said. "It was my first game (seeing defencemen Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina) and we have to see guys in different situations. But all you need is to see it once and then you know what to expect."

John Pohl tied Alex Suglobov for the club lead in pre-season goals with his third at 9:32 of the first. Dominik Hasek flubbed a Kubina point shot and Pohl beat Nicklas Lidstrom to the rebound

The Leafs had a vintage 2005-06 power-play goal, Tucker and Sundin working a loose puck to Kaberle, who teed it up for Bryan McCabe. It was Kaberle's first game after a groin injury two weeks ago. He and McCabe were re-united, with the Fred and Barney tandem of 6-foot-7 Hal Gill and 5-foot-10 Ian White. Andy Wozniewski and Kubina were the other pairing, though Wozniewski can't let up after being the only Leaf to appear in all seven exhibitions to date. Keep scratches Jay Harrison and Brad Brown in the mix for at least another day.


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