Leafs turn to amateur in last-minute scramble
Terry Koshan, QMI Agency
|Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle walks behind players on the bench during the third period of their NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Toronto March 29, 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)
Scott McKay used to fill in for Ed Belfour at Maple Leafs practices when the veteran’s back trouble would flare up.
On Thursday night, McKay, a 40-year-old former Leafs equipment manager, took a big step toward the real thing.
When Jonas Gustavsson suffered a left knee injury during the warmup prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, it forced the Leafs to go into scramble mode. Jussi Rynnas made his first NHL start, and a call was made to McKay, who was at home in Etobicoke preparing dinner for his kids.
McKay was signed in an emergency situation to an amateur tryout contract once he made his way to the Air Canada Centre.
Gustavsson sat on the bench, watching Rynnas lose in a 7-1 defeat. McKay was in the dressing room in his equipment, wearing No. 73, just in case.
“If Jonas couldn’t have backed up, then we could have used him,” Dave Nonis, Leafs senior vice-president of hockey operations, said in an e-mail. “If he was the only guy left standing, he would have gone in.”
McKay now is a pro rep for Warrior equipment, and Gustavsson is one of his clients.
“It was pretty cool,” McKay said. “I was ready to go. I just tried not to be a distraction (between periods).”
The Leafs would have used McKay, who plays in a weekly league as well with the NHLPA, at practice on Friday had Gustavsson not been able to participate.
Coach Randy Carlyle said he was unaware of McKay’s presence during the game on Thursday.
“I think you would have had to have put in a skating player — one would have to have dressed (as a goalie),” Carlyle said. “(Polling the players to see who was interested) did not enter my mind, honest to God. I don’t know if you can ever have Plan B in the drawer for that.”
As for Gustavsson, he joined practice on Friday but in a limited role. Whether he can play on Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Centre remains to be determined.
“We will not know on Jonas until he has treatment after the skate which he went through today,” Carlyle said. “He was not moving fluidly out there, and we will have to make decision after treatment. He was better this morning after last night and better after practice than he was before.
"It’s a bruise. He got a puck in a real funny area with no padding. If there is something bad that can happen, it is happening right now. It is one of the tough parts of the situation we are in.”
If Gustavsson is unavailable to start, the Leafs likely will recall Ben Scrivens from the Marlies.
James Reimer, meanwhile, still is experiencing headaches, Carlyle said. Centre David Steckel has suffered a small tear in his medial collateral ligament and is day to day.