In the waning moments of practice yesterday, coach Paul Maurice beckoned a group of veterans led by Mats Sundin and Bryan McCabe to centre ice and had a heart-to-heart huddle with them.
While those involved would not reveal the content of the chat with their coach, no one would have blamed Maurice if he would have advised them to "abandon ship!"
Adversity, after all, continues to haunt the Maple Leafs like a bad Halloween prank, a trend that continued yesterday.
- Gritty winger Darcy Tucker revealed that he has ligament damage in his right knee and will be out indefinitely. Tucker, who signed a four-year deal with the Leafs last season that pays him about $3 million US annually, had been off to a slow start this season.
- Injured regulars Kyle Wellwood (groin) and Carlo Colaiacovo (knee) also remain sidelined indefinitely, with no firm date set for a return. Wellwood was working with a power-skating expert after practice, with Maurice hoping the workout "helps his flexibility and ability to manoeuvre" as part of his rehab process.
- Given the team's recurring defensive woes, rookie Swedish defenceman Anton Stralman was called up from the American Hockey League Marlies and worked out with the team. Stralman had no idea if he'll be making his NHL debut against the Atlanta Thrashers tonight, but don't count anything out.
"It'll be a game-time decision," Maurice said of Stralman. "He played well at camp and down (with the Marlies) so we have no worries putting him in there."
"He skates well, moves the puck well and reads the game in front of him quite well. We'll make a decision at game time and if he's in the lineup we'll expect him to do all those things he has done well for the Marlies."
Stralman, who had five points in five games on the farm while going minus-one, was asked if the stint at the AHL level has helped his development.
"A little bit," he said. "But there is a big difference between the AHL and NHL, especially in terms of speed. It's just nice to be practising up here again and, hopefully, I'll get to play."
After the Leafs do battle with the Thrashers they will embark on a stint that features 10 of the next 16 games on the road. Having gone through a home-heavy early season schedule at just 3-4-2, a win tonight -- even if it still is October -- is practically imperative.
"There are 82 must-win games in the season if you think about it," captain Mats Sundin said. "But there is no doubt there is urgency here. You need to be at least 10 games over .500 at the end of the year if you want to make the playoffs."