TORONTO — The Frat Pack is back, Jack.
Maybe just for a game and certainly not playing on the same line, but the trio of college grad roommates who pumped life into the Maple Leafs in training camp have returned en masse, a little older, wiser and aiming to impress Ron Wilson against the San Jose Sharks on Monday night.
Centre Tyler Bozak has been up from the AHL Marlies since Jan. 12 and is on the first line. Christian Hanson was added three games ago, back at his natural position in the middle after starting last autumn at left wing. On Sunday morning, Viktor Stalberg got the call.
If nothing else, life in their shared Toronto condo will be more settled, with no one coming in from a Marlies bus trip to Grand Rapids at 4 a.m. as the others kidded Stalberg for doing on Saturday.
“It’s awesome,” Stalberg said at the Leafs practice at the MasterCard Centre. “We’ve been waiting a long time to be together up here.
“You kind of get the place to yourself sometimes because we’re all on different schedules. Now I’ll have to make room on the couch and share all the plates.”
Stalberg, despite the most dominant camp, perhaps found the NHL the hardest. He likely will start against the Sharks on the fourth line left side with Wayne Primeau and Colton Orr. He has a hard act to follow with his pals.
“Both played well and hopefully, I have a chance to move up the lineup, too,” Stalberg said.
Wilson is not guaranteeing Stalberg anything more than one shot, believing his speed will be more an asset than Jay Rosehill’s muscle, with the latter demoted for now.
“It’s not training camp; the real bullets are flying,” Wilson said. “What I like is their attitude, they’re trying to get better every day, they’re focused and they understand that this is a great opportunity.
“There are lots of adjustments, being consistent, understanding the physicality, the tempo. It’s a long year when you’re a first-year pro. (Stalberg) will notice the change (Monday), we’re playing one of the elite teams and it’ll be a challenge every shift.”
Hanson said they’ll just have to get over the disappointment of not playing together.
“That’s just the way it is, we’re at different stages right now. We’re very supportive of one another, so any time one guy gets called, the other two are very happy.”