O'Neill safe for now

Jeff O'Neill, who sat out the last two preseason games for the Maple Leafs, is unlikely to be sent...

Jeff O'Neill, who sat out the last two preseason games for the Maple Leafs, is unlikely to be sent down to the AHL's Marlies. (Toronto Sun/Stan Behal)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:01 PM ET

The 2006-07 Maple Leafs do, apparently, include Jeff O'Neill.

At least for the time being.

Following a 3-2 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings as the Leafs' pre-season concluded, coach Paul Maurice said he still believes in O'Neill and does not think a stint with the AHL's Toronto Marlies would do O'Neill much good.

O'Neill did not play in either of the past two games against the Wings. Prior to the weekend, Maurice said he would use primarily the lineup in a home-and-home set with the Wings that would go against the Ottawa Senators in the season opener on Wednesday.

"I don't think so right now," Maurice said when asked if O'Neill might be Marlies-bound. "We have the best (staff) in the world here. (Conditioning coordinator) Matt Nichol does a great job. Our practices are at a higher level. (O'Neill) has had two surgeries and I don't think he has gotten back to that (fitness) level (to be effective). He is not the Jeff O'Neill I know he can be."

In five pre-season games, O'Neill had one goal and one assist. He has said his shoulders are fine.

COUPLE OF CHANGES

Maurice made a couple of changes from Saturday's game in Motown.

Utilityman Wade Belak was in the lineup instead of winger Bates Battaglia, and Mikael Tellqvist backed up Andrew Raycroft in place of Jean-Sebastien Aubin.

The Leafs intend to go with a full 23-man roster, so a few more cuts are on the way. Final rosters are due to the NHL tomorrow afternoon.

It looks good for a number of players -- forwards Alexander Suglobov and John Pohl and defencemen Ian White and Andy Wozniewski -- who went into training camp 2 1/2 weeks ago in search of a job.

The seventh defenceman will be either youngster Jay Harrison or veteran Brad Brown.

One of Tellqvist or Aubin also might go.

A development last night may play a factor in roster moves. Nik Antropov, who very well could have porcelain in his DNA given the number of injuries he has suffered during the years, departed with a lower right leg injury in the first period and did not return.

Maurice said he thought Antropov was "pretty good" but added the latter will be re-evaluated today.

The Leafs also lost defenceman Pavel Kubina. He was given a major for cross-checking and a game misconduct near the end of the first period after he got his stick in the face of Jiri Hudler. There was no reason for Kubina to do so and it's the kind of undisciplined play that Maurice hates. Whether there will be further punishment from league could be decided today.

SOME QUESTION MARKS

Overall, Maurice appears to be somewhat happy with where his team stands at the end of camp.

"I think we are pretty happy exhibition is over," Maurice said. "We're getting a little better understanding with the players as individuals. There are still some question marks as to who fits best where."


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