Sparkplug Stralman

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

The Leafs were hoping the return of Anton Stralman would help spark the struggling offence. After missing the past 14 big league games while assigned to the AHL Marlies, Leafs coach Ron Wilson felt Stralman's puck-moving skills could come in handy.

"Your offence comes from great passes from your defenders coming out of your end," Wilson said of his intent for Stralman. "You can have the best forwards in the league, but if they are not getting the puck, they are not going to make the plays you need.

"Maybe having Anton here will help make our offence a little better."

Kinder? Gentler?

Hurricanes veteran Rod Brind'Amour feels a couple years in Toronto may have mellowed coach Paul Maurice. Brind'Amour said he has noticed a change in Maurice's second tour of duty with the 'canes, which he attributes to dealing with the pressure of the Toronto market.

"He's not as uptight," Brind'Amour said. "He's a little more at ease, joking around and letting the little things run off his back."

Back in black

The deeper they go into the season, the wearier the Leafs figure to get from travelling, especially in back-to-back game situations.

The Leafs will be in that boat for the sixth time tonight when they face the Thrashers further south in Dixie and, so far, the results have been weak with one win against four losses.

Loose Leafs

Partly out of necessity and in part looking for a spark, Wilson juggled the lineup for last night's game against the Hurricanes.

The coach moved centre Matt Stajan on a unit with Alex Ponikarovsky and Lee Stempniak while putting wingers Nik Antropov and Nik Hagman on a line with John Mitchell.

- The Leafs travelled to Atlanta after last night's game to meet the Thrashers tonight in a game that may not be easy on the eyes but has some interest in the race to the basement, otherwise known as the John Tavares derby. Atlanta have a miserable 14-25-5 record for 33 points, five more than the lowly Islanders.

- Wilson will likely have to shake up the lineup again after tonight's game because of the expected return of forward Mikhail Grabovski. Grabovski sat out the second game of his three-game suspension last night for shoving linesman Tim Cherrey in Montreal.

- With Nikolai Kulemin unable to go last night because of a leg injury, another Marlies callup, Jiri Tlusty, was back in the lineup for the Leafs but could be scratched to make room for Grabovski.


Videos

Photos