Kulemin eager to please

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Nikolai Kulemin started last season with the winning goal against the Stanley Cup champions. This year he began in the press box.

But the second-year winger was a happy man yesterday when coach Ron Wilson put him on the third line with centre Rickard Wallin and Lee Stempniak for tonight's game against Ottawa.

"I hadn't played good (in camp)," said Kulemin, who had 31 points as a rookie. "Now it's our third game ... I'm going to play hard."

Wilson saw an edge missing from Kulemin's game in September, but an injury to fourth-line centre Wayne Primeau ("he's banged up" Wilson said) gave the green light for a change.

"That's what he had to do, to wait," Wilson said. "I figured there would be an injury. He has to put the pre-season behind him, have a good game and stay in the lineup."

Those rotation blues

There is likely to be more game-by-game changes on the blueline after Jeff Finger sat against the Canadiens and Garnet Exelby versus the Caps. Ian White's turn might come this evening.

"We have seven quality defencemen," Wilson said. "Some guys will be in every night, some in the short term will have to be satisfied being in and out until things settle down. A lot of times, injuries take care of the coach's decisions."

Glass houses

The Leafs were forced to change practice rinks again yesterday when a shot broke a pane of glass in their designated pond of the MasterCard Centre four-pad. Reporters tattled on defenceman Tomas Kaberle, who was the culprit at least once before at the new practice facility. A thicker glass is on order.

"Was it Tomas? I asked who broke it and no one owned up," Wilson laughed.

Quote/unquote

"It's grossly unfair. This happens everywhere in the NHL, a guy struggles a little bit and tries to fix himself. (In Toronto), it's not a microscope, it's an electron microscope. It's awfully hard to feel good about yourself when everybody's questioning you." -- Wilson, believing Vesa Toskala gets too much media heat.

Scoring stars

Tonight, the Senators will try and contain Leafs winger Alexei Ponikarovsky, who had four points against them last year and has scored in each of Toronto's first two games...Daniel Alfredsson had three goals in four games against the Leafs last year.

Tough Shedden

Ex-Leaf and St. John's Maple Leafs, coach Doug Shedden, now with Zug of the Swiss League, is in the running to coach that country's national team and will be Craig MacTavish's assistant with Team Canada at December's Spengler Cup


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