Tlusty unfazed by demotion

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:43 AM ET

Jiri Tlusty vows he'll be back.

The speedy Maple Leafs prospect was in an upbeat mood last night despite having been assigned to the American Hockey League Marlies, where he stands to receive gobs of ice time from coach Greg Gilbert.

Tlusty, the Leafs' first-round pick in the 2006 entry draft, finished last season as a member of the Ontario Hockey League's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. But the Leafs feel he will be better served this time around in the American Hockey League, which often serves as a grooming ground for young NHL wannabes.

"He had a real strong training camp with the Leafs and continues to improve," Gilbert said yesterday. "I just think that, in the AHL, this will be his first time playing against men, not the kids he faced in junior.

"This will give him something to build on."

Tlusty, who impressed Leafs officials in his handful of exhibition games with the parent club, welcomes the challenge presented on the farm.

"I think I'll learn a lot," Tlusty said last night. "And the good thing is, I'll be close by. If the Leafs need me, I'll be just a phone call away."

Tlusty could have company with the Marlies by the end of office hours today.

Forwards Simon Gamache, Ben Ondrus, Tony Salmelainen and Jeremy Williams, defenceman Jay Harrison and goalie Scott Clemmensen were all placed on waivers. Should they not be claimed by another team by today, they likely will start the season with the Marlies.

Defenceman Bryan Muir's tryout agreement has come to an end, but he continues to hold discussions with management about possible options, one of which likely would be joining Tlusty on the farm.

With those players absent from practice yesterday, the Leafs iced the 23 players who very well might be on their list when they submit their 23-man roster today.

That is potential good news for forward Kris Newbury and defencemen Staffan Kronwall and Anton Stralman, although the two might be in trouble once healing defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo returns.

"I'm not taking anything for granted," Kronwall said. "My camp hasn't been bad but they know and I know I have more to give."

Stralman, too, was being cautiously optimistic.

"Kronny and I are the seventh and eighth (defencemen)," he said. "Let's see what happens. At least I'm still here for now."

Stralman has hinted about a possible return to Sweden if the Leafs attempt to ship him to the farm. But the Leafs say he is under contract and can't just skip out like that.

As for the defence pairings, the Fred & Barney duo of Hal Gill and Ian White have been split up.

White practised with Bryan McCabe yesterday while Gill lined up with fellow Twin Tower Andy Wozniewski.

"We were told we are going to see time in a defensive role against some of the opposition's top lines," Wozniewski said of his pairing with Gill.

THE BOTTOM LINES

When the Maple Leafs took to the ice for practice at Lakeshore Lions Arena yesterday, they offered a sneak peek at what their season-opening lineup might look like against the Ottawa Senators tomorrow. Keep in mind that NHL teams must submit their 23-man rosters by today.

FORWARDS

Jason Blake-Mats Sundin-Nik Antropov

Alexei Ponikarovsky-Matt Stajan-Alex Steen

Chad Kilger-John Pohl-Darcy Tucker

Bates Battaglia-Kris Newbury-Boyd Devereaux

Sub: Wade Belak

Injured: Kyle Wellwood

Suspended: Mark Bell

DEFENCE

Tomas Kaberle-Pavel Kubina

IanWhite-Bryan McCabe

Andy Wozniewski-Hal Gill

Subs: Anton Stralman, Staffan Kronwall

Injured: Carlo Colaiacovo

GOAL

Vesa Toskala Andrew Raycroft

PLACED ON WAIVERS

F Simon Gamache, F Ben Ondrus, F Tony Salmelainen, F Jeremy Williams, D Jay Harrison, G Scott Clemmensen.


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