Two demoted to Marlies

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

The Maple Leafs' flight to New York had two empty seats yesterday when the club returned defenceman Staffan Kronwall and winger Jiri Tlusty to the Marlies.

The expected return of Pavel Kubina this evening against the Rangers and Kronwall's declining ice time in the wake of reuniting Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle made dropping a defenceman a prudent decision.

Kronwall was up as high as eight minutes during one game after Kubina's right MCL injury last month, but was without a point as his ice time declined to under six minutes. Kubina, who was a minute muncher just before he got hurt, also was contributing on offence with 11 points in 18 games after getting 21 last season. It remains to be seen if he will bolster Andy Wozniewski in a new pairing or go back with Kaberle.

For Tlusty, it could be a precursor to the Leafs allowing him to play with the Czech Republic in the world junior tournament. It will be played in his home country later this month, though as of Tuesday their national team had not asked the Leafs.

On Tuesday, Leafs general manager John Ferguson said Tlusty would not be made available as long as he was with the big team. Tlusty caused a sensation with a two-goal game in his NHL debut last month against Pittsburgh, but faded from the picture and eventually from the lineup when he injured his collarbone in Dallas on Nov. 23.

Wade Belak's return to prominence on right wing and a modest winning streak with the current lineup also was a factor in the club's decision. Coach Paul Maurice has forwards Bates Battaglia and John Pohl around in case of injuries.


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