Frogren just glad to be here

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Maple Leafs defenceman Jonas Frogren has had a permanent smile etched on his face since arriving at training camp this season.

But that smile temporarily disappeared yesterday when Frogren, who returned to the lineup last night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Mellon Arena after missing 11 games with an arm injury, was asked if had any regrets leaving the Swedish Elite league for the NHL this season.

After all, it's been a bit of a struggle for the rugged Swede, who not only has missed a big part of the schedule so far to injuries, but was also a healthy scratch for 10 games.

"Oh no," the rugged blue-liner said following the team's morning skate. "I love it."

Whether he gets in most of the remaining games or not this season, Frogren insisted that he is happy to be playing in Toronto.

His motivation to come to North America after nine seasons in the Swedish Elite League, was not money or glory, he said, but to get the chance to play against the best teams and players in the world, such as the Penguins who sport a lineup that includes the NHL's top scorers in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

"I'm glad for every game I play," he said.

"Of course, it's tough to be hurt, but I'm learning a little bit every day and watching games, too. It's not very often you get to do that, and I'm learning a little bit from that, too.

The Leafs fully expected the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Frogren to step in and make the team this season, but his place on the defensive depth chart slid with the emergence of rookie Luke Schenn and the stellar play of first-year Leaf Mike Van Ryn. Ironically, it was injuries to Schenn (knee strain) and Van Ryn (concussion) that got Frogren back into the lineup last night.

"We need a physical presence, someone mean in front of the net, which is something we have lacked at times this year," head coach Ron Wilson said.

Frogren's smile, meanwhile, returned in a grand way during the first period last night, when he rifled a point shot past Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury for his first career NHL goal.


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