Curtis Joseph is in tonight while the newest Maple Leaf is waiting for a medical report from Missouri before he learns whether he will make his first start for his new team.
Forward Lee Stempniak, who was acquired from the St. Louis Blues for Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen in a deal on Monday, passed his physical with the Leafs and was hoping to make his first start for his new team tonight at the Air Canada Centre against the Atlanta Thrashers.
The only stumbling block is the two soon to be ex-Leafs clearing medicals in St. Louis. The Blues are particularly concerned about injury-prone Colaiacovo though Leafs management is expecting the deal to proceed.
“I’m looking at it like I’m going to play tonight, that’s the way I’m preparing,” said Stempniak, who got his first real taste of the Toronto media mob. “In St. Louis, you’re always a little under the radar, but as a hockey player, you always want to be in an environment like this.”
Stempniak, a much-needed right-handed forward, will wear No. 12 should the trade receive final approval. Leafs coach Ron Wilson said Stempniak will likely begin his Leafs career with Jason Blake and Dominic Moore though he plans to mix and match until he sees where Stempniak (who had three goals and 10 assists in 14 games with the Blues) best fits.
“He’s something we coveted - a right-hand shot,” Wilson said. “The last three or four weeks he’s been St. Louis’ best player. He’s got a sneaky hard shot. We’ll fit him in.”
Joseph, meanwhile, will make his third start of the season in search of his first victory. The veteran backup most recently played on Nov. 2, a game which the Leafs lost 6-4 to the Hurricanes. With Joseph in, Vesa Toskala will have to wait until Thursday’s game in Ottawa to make the 200th start of his NHL career.
“He hasn’t played in a while and we need to get him a start,” Wilson said of going to Joseph. “The longer you go without a start, the harder it is.”
As for injured defenceman Jonas Frogren, the Leafs expect the physical Swede to be out of the lineup for a good four weeks. Frogren suffered an elbow strain in Saturday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.