The decision on which Maple Leafs forward would sit to accommodate the return of Mike Brown was settled early Thursday when Fredrik Sjostrom was scratched.
He suffered a couple of leg injuries in recent games and as a fourth-line left winger, it was easy to slot Brown in his position after six weeks away with a broken index finger.
“(Brown) brings that aggressiveness, forechecking, physicality and he’s a good penalty-killer,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson noted. “That (penalty killing) has been really good the past 20 games. We won’t miss a beat with Brownie. We wanted to make sure the bone in his hand has knit, There’s no fear of him breaking it again.”
Brown is also handy with his dukes to take some pressure off of Colton Orr in that respect.
Also not playing on Thursday was forward Kris Versteeg, who is out with a suspected upper body injury. Brett Lebda dressed as a forward.
YANDLE WITH CARE
Many Phoenix Coyotes are really ticked that defenceman and top scorer Keith Yandle was left off the all-star team and more than one privately thought that the league’s hockey operations department just doesn’t see him play enough in the West.
“He’d be on every single one of my teams,” captain Shane Doan said. “If you could pick the top six defencemen, let alone the top 12, he’d be on my team. Not only is he an unbelievable player, he’s an incredible guy, so well liked in our dressing room. And he’s our best player. We’re pretty fortunate to have him and he should be there (in Raleigh N.C., for the Jan. 30 game).”
The Boston-born Yandle says he quickly overcame the disappointment.
“The guys who made it are worthy of it. There’s nothing I can do or say.”
Coyotes’ 19-year-old blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson was picked for the Young Stars skills competition.
STEMP OF APPROVAL
Ex-Leaf Lee Stempniak is far off last year’s pace of 14 goals in 18 games with the Coyotes, but does not regret being traded by Toronto at last March’s deadline.
“It’s fun to play meaningful hockey late in the season,” he said of being in the playoff hunt a second straight year with Phoenix. “We’ve had some ups and downs, but at the same time moving in the right direction.
“It’s exciting (to play Toronto for the first time since the deal). It’s just another game, but at the same time you want to go out and prove (yourself). I don’t know if they made a mistake, but you still (want to show) you have some value and that they miss you.”
The Leafs have undergone a big roster overhaul in the short time Stempniak has been gone.
“I haven’t watched many of their games, but one thing I remember Burkie saying is that you can’t have a team that’s near the bottom of the standings and there were going to be changes.”
JIGGY’S GOT HIS BACK
Wilson chose Jean-Sebastien Giguere to back up James Reimer in Phoenix, the first time Giguere has been in the mix since Dec. 16 when groin troubles flared up again. That meant Jonas Gustavsson was a healthy scratch for the first time since joining the Leafs. The coach did not believe it would adversely affect the second-year stopper.
“It’s not a crisis or anything like that,” Wilson said. “He wants to play, Jiggy wants to play. But logic states right now that James has played well and deserves the opportunity.”