NEWARK, N.J. - Joey Crabb went down to the Toronto Marlies as a checker and came back as a scorer, but Ron Wilson doesn’t figure Crabb is the next coming of Phil Kessel.
“I want him to do what he did last year — generate on the fore-check, finish his checks,” Wilson said. “I’m not saying I’m expecting him to score at the rate he was in the American league, just contribute any way he can.
“He has earned his return. It was a no-brainer if we were going to put (Matt) Frattin down, he would be back up.”
Frattin was sent to the Marlies on Tuesday with the intent to restore some confidence. In 11 games with the Leafs, he had zero goals.
Crabb was in a great mood in the Leafs dressing room, and why shouldn’t be? He didn’t sulk when he was sent down to the Marlies, and contributed 15 points (seven goals and eight assists) in nine games.
“My confidence is high right now,” Crabb said. “Things worked out well down there. I wanted to stay (with the Leafs) out of camp, but it did not work out that way. It’s nice to get the chance now.”
The Leafs’ speed has become a topic of conversation around the NHL, moreso for the opponents they are about to face.
“Their transition is really good,” said Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel, whose club plays host to the Leafs on Thursday night. “Let’s hope New Jersey slows them down a little bit. It’s about us making them play in their end of the rink and not allowing them to play their style.”
Though the forwards in Toronto uniforms are getting most of the ink, Wilson rightly pointed out there’s more to it than quickness up front. It starts in the defensive zone.
“The defencemen are figuring out to move the puck quickly, not carry it and slow our forwards down,” Wilson said. “Just getting it ahead, and allowing forwards to do their job. It’s a group effort.”
Perhaps no Devil was happier with the hiring of coach Peter DeBoer in the off-season than forward David Clarkson.
A native of Toronto, Clarkson played for DeBoer with Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League. The two were part of the organization when it won the Memorial Cup in 2003.
“He was one of the people who believed in me to get me to the NHL,” Clarkson said. “I would not be here if it was not for him pushing me and motivating me. He saw something in me, found a way to get through to me.”
DeBoer said it was not always easy to convince Clarkson to see it the coach’s way in Kitchener.
“He was a guy that you always noticed on the ice, and you can’t say that about everyone,” DeBoer said. “He made himself a part of the game whether he was scoring or not. But we had a lot of tug-of-wars over what type of player he was going to be.”
Clarkson played in his 308th NHL game on Wednesday night, all with the Devils.
“He is like Tim Thomas (of the Boston Bruins). Not the traditional butterfly style. Sometimes it looks like he is giving you a lot of the net, and then it is gone right away.”
— Leafs forward Tyler Bozak on what it’s like to play against Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.