Sweden's Viktor Stalberg never thought that dodging paintballs in a place called Huntsville would be the last step to playing for the Maple Leafs.
But every young Leaf on the roster was praying for the invite to go north with the main roster after last night's final exhibition game.
"I'd like to get some shots at the veterans, but I'm not on the bus yet," Stalberg said yesterday morning. "My body's getting a little tired now (last night was his eighth game and third in as many nights), but I'll just do the best I can."
Coach Ron Wilson intended to take as many as 26 players to Deerhurst Inn on the trip, which will have many team building exercises included. Wilson figured it would be a good experience for those closest to cracking the roster and a few spots opened up because of injury
"We've had 35 guys here and everyone seems to get along and mesh well," centre Matt Stajan said. "A lot of us will play here and even though they might not be here at the start, they'll get called up into an environment they're familiar with."
The next few days should clarify the Leafs' injury situation, but Wilson isn't sure what to make of defenceman Mike Van Ryn's knee condition.
"We're trying to get the swelling down," Wilson said. "It's good for three days and then he has a bad day. It's a process."
Defenceman Jeff Finger (strained oblique muscle) hopes to be cleared for action by tomorrow. Winger Jamal Mayers (possible concussion) might join Van Ryn and Phil Kessel (shoulder) on injured reserve to start the season.
Beauty and the Monster
Jonas Gustavsson's three shutout periods were still the talk of the dressing room yesterday.
"When I see Jonas in his street clothes, I'm sorry, I can't call him The Monster," joked Wilson.
During the standing ovation that followed his save on a 2-on-0, Hockey Night In Canada cameras found a pretty blonde identified as the 24-year-old's girlfriend.
"He has got everything going for him," opined play-by-play man Jim Hughson.