Team Canada goaltender Justin Pogge has a big fan rooting for him in Toronto.
General manager John Ferguson has been impressed with the performance turned in by Pogge at the world junior hockey championship thus far.
Pogge was selected 90th overall in the 2004 entry draft by the Maple Leafs.
"Taking into account the year or so since he was drafted, we really like the progression," Ferguson said. "He's gaining some valuable experience by participating in high-level games against some top competition.
"We hope the Canadians continue to have success and keep up their winning ways."
Former Team Canada goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, now with the Pittsburgh Penguins, had some advice for Pogge.
"Try to forget all the external stuff and have fun with it," Fleury said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Ferguson admits the Leafs organization is running thin on healthy players these days.
The Leafs soon might have to start bringing in bodies on tryout contracts.
At one point last week, there were a total of 16 injured players in the organization --five with the Leafs and 11 with the American Hockey League's Marlies.
"It's really a credit that they continue to perform," Ferguson said of the Marlies, who drubbed Cleveland 6-1 at the Air Canada Centre yesterday afternoon.
Alex Steen had the enthusiasm of a kid who had just unwrapped that one special gift on Christmas morning.
The Maple Leafs rookie received a much-coveted present yesterday when doctors gave him medical clearance, allowing him to suit up for the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins last night at the Air Canada Centre.
"It feels a lot better," Steen said of his healing thumb, which he first injured in a fall during practice last month. "It's almost 100%. The strength seems to be back, and I can shoot the puck pretty hard again."
Steen had not played since the Leafs were humiliated 8-2 by the Ottawa Senators at the Corel Centre on Dec. 17. He was out of the Toronto lineup for seven games, a span in which the Leafs posted a 6-1 record.