Stapleton gets a chance

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:36 PM ET

UNIONDALE -- From the 'A' to Zug, everyone is pulling for Tim Stapleton this evening.

The Marlies' leading scorer received his big break Wednesday night when an upper body injury shelved centre John Mitchell in the Leafs-Rangers game at the Air Canada Centre. Before the period had ended, the Leafs had called across the street for Stapleton to report for the rink for the post-game flight and tonight's game on Long Island.

The undrafted Stapleton, from the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, played four years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and after a cup of coffee in the American Hockey League with Portland, he landed with the Jokerit club team in Finland, coached by ex-Marlies boss Doug Shedden. He had 137 points in 135 games there, putting him on the Leafs' radar.

"A wonderful kid," Shedden said via e-mail from Zug, Switzerland, where he now coaches the club team. "He came a long way in two seasons."

Because he hails from Chicago, Tim is often asked if he's any relation to Blackhawks legend Pat (Whitey) Stapleton. In fact, his nickname is Tiger, because his facial expressions remind many of golfer Tiger Woods.

"He's fast, with a great shot and sees the ice well. I hope he does well," Shedden said. "Ville Leino, the guy he played with in Jokerit, is now on the Red Wings."

Stapleton had compiled 54 points in 51 games and earned praise from Marlies coach Greg Gilbert and others in the organization for his smarts with the puck and despite his 160-pound size limitation, rarely putting himself in vulnerable positions.

Stapleton gradually took the farm team scoring lead from Kris Newbury and has excelled on a line with Jiri Tlusty and Bates Battaglia.

Earlier this month, he was named AHL player of the week for a two-game, five-point splurge that helped put him atop team scoring, He has been among the AHL's best in shootout goals (a major Leaf weakness) and power-play assists.

Defenceman Anton Stralman was also called up for tonight's game with Jeff Finger hurt by a shot block.


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