Frattin demoted, Crabb recalled

Maple Leafs forward Joey Crabb skates in a game against the Bruins at the Air Canada Centre in...

Maple Leafs forward Joey Crabb skates in a game against the Bruins at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., March 19, 2011. (DAVE THOMAS/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:16 AM ET

TORONTO - Coming up on 1,350 NHL games coached, Ron Wilson knows better than to put away the eraser when it seems his lineup is set.

A rare week where the Maple Leafs didn’t need to make changes will end when the club is in New Jersey and Columbus this week, with the first alarm sounding Tuesday at practice when defenceman Jake Gardiner limped off the MasterCard Centre ice. Then came the long walk up the stairs to Wilson’s office for goal-challenged rookie winger Matt Frattin, who was getting demoted to the Toronto Marlies for checker Joey Crabb.

It’s also expected goaltender James Reimer will be back in one of the two road games, certainly no later than Saturday’s home date with Boston, which would see Jonas Gustavsson slide back to the end of the bench and Ben Scrivens sent down.

Many on the club were pulling for Frattin, last year’s Hobey Baker nominee, to get his first regulation goal, after a couple of close calls off posts. But the chances have become fewer, outside of a shootout winner against Winnipeg on Oct. 19.

“He’s just got to stay with it and one of these days the puck is going in for him,” Wilson said before the demotion announcement was made. “You don’t want a young player who has been at the level he has been at in college (36 goals with North Dakota) to come here and not be able to score.

“We have to make a decision to help him build his confidence. I’m certainly not going to compromise what we’re doing to find a way to help him score. Other guys have earned that right over the years and are contributing a lot.”

With the Leafs trying to avoid a seventh year out of the playoffs, Wilson has pledged to stamp out complacency and keep players hungry, as indicated with veteran defencemen such as Cody Franson and Mike Komisarek spending time in the press box during this start of 7-3-1. Frattin wasn’t getting a swelled head, but this move is reward for Crabb’s surprising offensive numbers on the farm, 15 points in nine games.

Wilson said Frattin could have benefitted from more power-play time, but that perk was going to his veterans, who have been doing fairly well in that area.

Crabb was a big part of last season’s second-half revival, but found himself marooned as a Marlie when the Leafs tried out newcomers Frattin, David Steckel and Philippe Dupuis on their third and fourth lines.

The rookie Gardiner lasted about 10 minutes on Tuesday before heading off, later sporting a bandage on his right foot from a shot block injury Sunday against Ottawa.

“We’ll see how everything is tomorrow, but he’s had x-rays and they don’t show anything (bad),” Wilson said.

“He just had a shot in the wrong spot, like Tyler Bozak did a couple of weeks ago. It all has to do with how your foot feels in the skate. If it’s on a pressure point, every time you take a stride it almost feels like a funny bone kind of sensation and you don’t have any strength.”

Franson, a healthy scratch the past five games, would take Gardiner’s place, if Wilson wasn’t already thinking about a change with Toronto playing three games in four nights this week. Franson has dispensed with his grumbling and hang-dog look that he wore when he didn’t make the starting lineup out of training camp.

“You just work on the little things you can and try not to make too big a deal about not getting into a game,” he said. “The team is winning and that’s the most important thing. Hopefully, Gards is okay. But if he’s sore, I’m ready to go.”

Reimer, whose honesty is often at odds with the secretive Leafs, was kept from the media on Tuesday regarding his return from the lingering effects of a head/neck injury. It was his first full practice in six days, though Gustavsson handled most of the work. Wilson said a decision on a starter will be made Wednesday morning, though it’s more likely Reimer faces the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Thursday. Ben Scrivens made the trip for Toronto as the third goalie.

“It was good to see Reimer out there and he looked sharp,” Wilson said. “We’ll see how he feels after the pre-game skate and how he feels after what he went through today.”


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