|Toronto Maple Leafs' Tim Brent takes down teammate Jeff Finger at the team practice. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Luke Schenn could miss one or both of the Maple Leafs’ final two pre-season games with a back injury, but forgotten man Jeff Finger has to make the most of his first exhibition action on Friday night.
Schenn developed a back problem mid week and has not been on the ice for two days.
“I’d expect Luke back and we’d like to get our full defence in there by Saturday (the return home match against the Red Wings at the ACC), but maybe it’s not possible,” coach Ron Wilson said Thursday at the MasterCard Centre.
Finger will replace Schenn as Carl Gunnarsson’s partner on the third blue line unit. Finger was a major off-season story as his $3.5-million US salary was seen as an impediment to the Leafs retaining salary cap space. The betting was the Leafs would put Finger on waivers and move his heavy contract to the AHL Marlies.
Senior vice-president David Nonis said on the eve of camp that Finger would get every chance to earn his place on the new-look defence, only to have the veteran suffer a knee injury within a day or so of scrimmage games.
‘Part of the game’
“Too bad the injury took place when it did,” Finger said. “But that’s part of the game.”
He is asked about the cap situation almost every time he pops his head into the dressing room.
“It’s like ‘what’s new?’, it’s been that way since (last year),” Finger said. “You go about your business and things fall where they may. That’s all you can do, it’s all anyone with a profession can do.
Wilson is not expecting miracles from Finger in just 60 minutes.
“He’s going to have some rust on him,” the coach said. “He has to keep the game simple and be physical. He’ll probably be a little bit behind, because Detroit is a very fast team.”
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson returned to the ice on Thursday after leaving early two days before and skipping Wednesday completely.
“It was good for me because one of my groins has been a little tight,” said Gustavsson, who has had injury trouble in that vicinity. “I don’t want to risk anything now, so I’m doing a little re-hab. It doesn’t make sense to come back too early.”
His scheduled start against the Wings on Friday will be given to Finnish rookie Jussi Rynnas, who should be headed to Marlies’ camp right after as Gustavsson prepares to back-up Jean-Sebastien Giguere next week.
Defencemen Brett Lebda and Matt Lashoff continue to have shoulder injuries treated.