Bring it, or else

Toronto Maple Leafs' Wade Belak and New Jersey Devils' Cam Janssen fight. (Sun Media file...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Wade Belak and New Jersey Devils' Cam Janssen fight. (Sun Media file photo/David Lucas)

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

On the schedule, today's game is the only guaranteed win for the Maple Leafs this season

But there could be some losers in the Blue and White match, if any of the bubble boys among 42 players in the lineup treat the 1 p.m. intrasquad affair in Oshawa too lightly. Coach Paul Maurice carefully will grade today's result in order to complete his roster for the first two NHL exhibition games next week in Edmonton and against the Phoenix Coyotes in Winnipeg.

"If some guys have a big day, we'll add a couple (for the trip)," Maurice said yesterday at Ricoh Coliseum after Day 2 of camp. "I've got most of the lineup for our first four games done, but there are injuries to consider."

NHL exhibition lineups require a lot of juggling between giving newcomers a fair trial and keeping enough star power in the starting 20 to make it worth buying a ticket. The NHL has dropped the required number of veterans in the lineup from 10 to eight this year, with any first-round picks to be included in the latter.

Players aren't likely to be in more than two or three consecutive games, though defenceman Andy Wozniewski and centre Matt Stajan appeared in all eight last year in their quest to earn jobs.

"By about the fourth day of camp, you start to see the groins start to pop," Maurice said.

Plenty of big names will be present today in Oshawa with seven defencemen dressing for both sides. But for the first four games, the new draft picks, youngest prospects and fringe players will get the prime ice time among more than 50 men in camp. Maurice says the true Leafs roster should begin to emerge after Saturday afternoon's game in Boston.

"Some of the (prospects) will get one or two games next week, but a guy such as Mats Sundin might play just one," he said.

Alex Steen is a lock to play in Wednesday's game in his hometown, where his father Thomas was a Winnipeg Jet.

"I heard about the game last year and I'm sure it's going to be sold out," Steen said. "It'll be nice to play in their new building, the MTS Centre. I go there a lot and Randy Carlyle's son Craig is a good friend of mine.'

Maurice is pleased after the first two days, which he thinks underlined that he and the Leafs are on the same page when it comes to practice tempo. That concept took a couple of months to work out in his inaugural season and might have been a factor when Toronto was a .500 team through its first 12 games and was shaky at home.

The Leafs begin 2007-08 with another home-friendly regular schedule, with five of the first six and nine of 13 at the Air Canada Centre, with no travel further than New York City.

"The first lesson of coaching in Toronto: No month is less important than another," Maurice said on the day camp opened.


Photos