TORONTO - Nazem Kadriís name appeared nowhere on the scoresheet on Tuesday night.
But though the progress of perhaps the Maple Leafsí best young prospect appears to be slow at times, that the 20-year-old is getting a regular shift with the Leafs in such crucial games can only aid his development.
Whether the Leafs make the playoffs, Kadri is learning what is required to play in tight games with plenty on the line. There might not be much production coming from him now, but when youíre playing on a line with Fred Sjostrom and Joey Crabb, offence will be hard to come by. Having to skate against Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu at times on Tuesday didnít help, but the veteran Koivu did not score either.
We were impressed when Kadri popped right back up after he was hit hard, and cleanly, by Wild forward Eric Nystrom.
Kadriís late-season summoning from the minors should boost his outlook through the off-season. But the watershed moments for Kadri should come during and after training camp next September. Plenty more will be expected of him then. His participation in these final few games should help.
From the hash marks
Unless he gets hurt, there is no reason James Reimer should not play every minute of every remaining Leafs game, even if the team becomes officially eliminated from playoff contention. Toronto has eight games left, with a single back-to-back set, April 5-6 versus Washington and New Jersey. Jean-Sebastien Giguereís time as a Leafs appears to be done and Jonas Gustavsson has no future in Toronto if Reimer is the real deal ... The laser that Joffrey Lupul disguised as a shot for a goal in the first period was the kind of thing general manager Brian Burke hoped he was getting when he acquired Lupul from the Anaheim Ducks in February. Lupul just doesnít get that great shot off enough. In 20 games with Toronto, Lupul has just five goals, and will have to be more productive next season ... Phil Kesselís touch pass to Tyler Bozak that resulted in the odd-man break should not be overlooked. Kessel has gone five games without a goal, but has been doing those little things that coaches love. The effort has been there in Kesselís game, which the starting point for any kind of success ... Notice how thin the padding was on the stanchion that Lupulís face bounced off during the first period? If not now, the NHL should ensure during the off-season that every rink in the league has thick padding on every stanchion in time for 2011-12. If nothing else, given the injury suffered by the Montreal Canadiensí Max Pacioretty recently, the NHL Playersí Association should lobby hard for thicker padding in every rink ... When Carl Gunnarsson scored on a power play in the third period, it was the Leafsí first shot, let alone goal, in five man-advantage chances. Yikes ... Did Reimer tell his teammates before the game that he wanted to sharpen up on his ability to stop breakaways?
The stories of players who take several years to develop before making an impact in the NHL, such as the Leafsí Tim Brent, are alluring, but thereís nothing wrong with quick developers. Wild defenceman Brent Burns is a good example. Brampton Battalion boss Stan Butler figured he had a franchise cornerstone in Burns during the 2002-03 season, and in a sense, he was right. But Burns was drafted in June 2003 by the Wild with the 20th pick, and he didnít play for Brampton again. Burns, who has become a solid offensive defenceman, spent just one season in major junior, a rarity for any player no matter how good he is ... Brett Lebda was not this weak defensively during five seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, was he? When the Leafs signed him as a free agent last July, the thinking was he could at least be a solid depth player, with, no less, a Stanley Cup ring to boot. Instead, Lebda, who was plus-31 during his tenure as a Wing, tends to make one cringe when he is on the ice. Lebda is due to be paid $1.4 million US next season, making him an expensive mistake by Burke. Wonder if Lebda will become next seasonís Jeff Finger ... Itís difficult to have anything but respect for veteran Wild forward Andrew Brunette, who never will be featured in a how-to video for skating beginners. Heís neither fast nor pretty to watch, but Brunette has 699 points in 1,024 NHL games after he was a seventh-round pick by Washington in 1993. Not bad ... The Leafs registered their second shutout in Minnesota against the Wild, as Ed Belfour blanked the Wild in 2003. There have been no less than eight places the Leafs have never registered a shutout in the regular season: Anaheim, Colorado (versus the Avalanche), Columbus, Nashville, New Jersey, New York (Islanders), Phoenix and Washington.