Struggling Wallin at a loss

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

Rickard Wallin said that he felt sort of like a traitor for leaving his Swedish elite league team Farjestads this past summer. Now he's starting to feel a little bit like a pretender.

The two-way centre signed a four-year deal with the Swedish powerhouse last March, but with a clause which allowed him to sign with an NHL club if such an opportunity presented itself.

The opportunity did present itself on July 10, when the 29-year Wallin signed with the Leafs.

"I did feel a little bit of a traitor to leave that late in the summer, because they kind of set the team," Wallin said yesterday of Farjestads. "But it's always been my dream to play in the NHL and to be able to come to Toronto is just a dream come true."

The dream, however, has turned into a nightmare of sorts for the personable Wallin. The Stockholm native is playing well enough defensively, mostly on the third or fourth line. But he's been unable to score. In 34 games, he's got donuts, and it's beginning to play with his mind.

"It's hard to stay positive when you see that O in the goal column, that's something that I haven't been used to in my whole career on different levels," said Wallin. "So it's a battle to get through this and I'm just hoping that if I get that first one, it will get the monkey off the back and I'll be able to relax and play my game a little bit more."

The Leafs certainly didn't expect a goal-scoring machine when they brought over Wallin from Sweden (along with free agent goaltender Jonas Gustavsson). But they probably never imagined that he wouldn't be able to score at all, though he does have three assists.

Last year with Farjestads, the Swedish champions, Wallin led the team with 18 goals in 55 games. In 19 games with the Minnesota Wild in parts of two previous NHL seasons, Wallin managed six goals.

PERPLEXING

All of which makes his slump that much more perplexing.

"I've played enough at a pretty high level that I know that I can play with these guys, but I do need some lucky breaks to be effective," he said. "I'm not the kind of guy who can take over a game like Sidney Crosby or Phil Kessel. But it's like a domino affect. If the first one doesn't go down, it's hard to get the other ones."

Wallin had a glorious opportunity to score on an open net on Saturday against Pittsburgh, but couldn't pull the trigger.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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