Stajan not up to snuff

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Matt Stajan took the pre-game skate yesterday at the Air Canada Centre and made one young girl's day by handing her a puck.

That was to be his greatest contribution Stajan would have, however, as the Mississauga native was a healthy scratch, the first game he has missed since March of 2006.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson already had relegated Stajan to the fourth line for the first two games and clearly wasn't impressed with his play thus far.

Yesterday, the centre who had played all 82 games each of the past two seasons under Paul Maurice, was benched to make room for the return of tough guy forward Ryan Hollweg.

"I went with the linuep that I best thought would help our team win," Wilson said bluntly of his decision to send Stajan to the press box for the afternoon.

"Again, it's based on performance. Perform up to the level you are capable of and you remain in the lineup."

Throughout training camp, Wilson has been adamant that players, regardless of their past status with the team, would have to earn their playing time throughout the season.

And the first-year Leafs coach believes such a stance is crucial to establishing a solid working reputation with his players.

Stajan had entered training camp as a player expected to be a leader of the rebuilding Leafs and touted by some as captaincy material. He has yet to make that impression on the coaching staff and Wilson clearly hopes yesterday's move will light a fire under Stajan.

Of course with Hollweg facing another suspension after boarding Blues rookie Alex Pietrangelo, that opportunity could come quickly.

"I have to establish credibility as a coach," Wilson said. "If you're not playing well, the only way I can hold people accountable is with ice time.

"He'll bounce back. It will be up to (Stajan) to respond, not up to me. He has got to play."

Meanwhile, the Leafs also were without defenceman Jonas Frogren, who suffered a bruised foot in Saturday's 6-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Wilson expects Frogren to return to the lineup soon -- and the sooner the better given the team's sometimes soft play in front of goaltender Vesa Toskala.

"We could have used (Frogren) and the kind of stiffness he brings to the back end," Wilson said.


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