Leafs to look at Big O

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

Growing up in Brampton, Phil Oreskovic said he bled blue and white.

And given his style of play -- he is a big, hard-hitting defenceman who won't hesitate to drop the gloves -- that theory will be put to the test soon enough.

Oreskovic was called up to the Maple Leafs yesterday, along with fellow defenceman Anton Stralman, from the Marlies in the wake of injuries suffered by defencemen Mike Van Ryn and Jonas Frogren on Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers at the Air Canada Centre.

Van Ryn has missed 39 games this year as a result of a myriad of injuries, including two concussions. Both he and Frogren went down on Saturday with lower body injuries, after becoming entangled with Oilers centre Marc-Antoine Pouliot on separate plays early in the game.

With veteran defenceman Tomas Kaberle (hand) and the newly acquired Erik Reitz (foot) out for another week or so, the Leafs had to raid the Marlies roster once again. For Stralman, it's fifth time he's been called up this season.

Wilson said that Van Ryn and Frogren will both undergo an MRI today. There is speculation that Van Ryn could be lost for the year.

"Until the guys have an MRI, I'm not going to speculate (on their return) until I know for sure what the problem is," Wilson said.

But as the coach pointed out, one man's injury is another man's opportunity and the 22-year-old Oreskovic will get his first shot at the NHL level this evening in Ottawa against the Senators.

"I'm really excited, a little bit of nerves, but I just have to play my game, be smart and simple," he said. "I've still got a little bit of the jitters going on right now, but I'm looking forward to the next couple of days and making the most of it.

"I just want to take every day as if I'm fighting for a job, that I'm fighting for a spot on the team. I'm going to show up with that mentality."

Oreskovic prompted a few laughs from his new teammates yesterday when he admitted that, yes, he still lives at home in Brampton with his parents, Joe and Colleen.

"Home-cooked meals, the works," he said of the arrangement, adding that he would bring in some "chicken parm and veal" for his teammates. "I hear all the guys chuckling in the background. But hey, I've got no complaints, I'm sure if they could, they would too (live at home)."

The 6-foot-3, 217 pound Oreskovic has played 59 games with the Marlies this season, picking up one goal and eight assists, along with 94 minutes in penalties. He is also a plus- 15, which leads the Marlies.

He was the Leafs' third-round choice, 82nd overall in the 2005 draft after spending 31/2 seasons with his hometown Battalion and half a season with the Owen Sound Attack. He is known as a strong defensive defenceman and excellent bodychecker and a physical force in front of his own net.

"It will be interesting to see how he performs," Wilson said. "He's played relatively well. He's not a puck- handler or anything like that, but he's been the Marlies' best plus-minus defenceman all year, so we'll just ask him to play to his strength -- move the puck to his partner and do a good job defending."


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