Leafs grinder thrust into centre of attention

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

TORONTO -- As they face off against the surprisingly bad Ottawa Senators tonight, the surprisingly decent Toronto Maple Leafs will make one minor change.

Head coach Ron Wilson will insert fourth-line centre John Mitchell on the top line between Nik Antropov, the club's leading scorer, and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Matt Stajan, the No. 1 unit's usual centre, is still out with an eye injury.

Wilson is hoping Mitchell will seize the moment.

The Oakville, Ont., product has been a consistent fixture on the fourth line this season, but gets a game or two to show the organization what he can do offensively while playing with the big Euros.

"He's got to be ready to go," said Wilson. "Don't test the water -- dive in the deep end and away you go, start paddling."

Mitchell, 23, a consistent scorer with the AHL's Toronto Marlies the previous two seasons, said he is ready for the challenge.

"It's an opportunity for me to hopefully show some of the skills that I have, and utilize those guys and try to use my speed to get them a little bit more room to handle the puck," Mitchell said.

"I'm not a Sidney Crosby or someone that can just walk in and be given first line treatment. I spent three years in the minors, so obviously I had to work to get here and I'm going to have to work to climb up in the lines.

"Being on the fourth line, you have to do a fourth-line job. And when you're on the first line, you have to do a first-line job, and that's get some offence and put pucks on the net."


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