Leafs' Steen seeing red

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

Toronto forward Alex Steen is accustomed to seeing a maple leaf on his own chest, not on those opposing him.

But as the lone regular NHLer on Team Sweden, that's exactly what he'll be facing today at the world championship when Steen's Tre Kronors meet Team Canada in a semi-final showdown.

Making the matchup even more intriguing is that Steen's NHL general manager, John Ferguson, is part of the Team Canada braintrust, which has picked a roster that enters today's matchup unbeaten.

While Ferguson obviously will be pulling for the Canadians, his role as Maple Leafs general manager will have him closely monitoring the play of Steen and defenceman Anton Stralman, the highly regarded Toronto prospect who has been drawing raves from Swedish management types.

"We cannot let (Team Canada) come at us with speed because that will give them energy in our zone," Steen told Swedish reporters yesterday.

"We have to try to shrink the rink,'' he continued.

"We have to try to bore them. I respect them all. (The Canadians) are professional from head to toe. But I consider Sweden the better team."

Steen, son of retired Swedish NHLer Thomas Steen, was born in Winnipeg but started his pro career in the Swedish elite league before coming to the Leafs.

Stralman, meanwhile, is being referred to as the "next Nicklas Lidstrom" in some Sweden circles.

He said last week that he was close to signing with the Leafs, a process that seems imminent with Ferguson in town.

Stralman, however, has no aspirations to suit up for the Marlies next season.

In his mind, it's Leafs or bust as he continues his evolution as a hockey player.

"According to the plan, I will play there next season but you can never be certain," Stralman told the Swedish publication Svenska Dagbladet.

'NOT DEVELOPING'

"But if I go there, I want to play for the Maple Leafs. I'm not interested in playing in the minor leagues.

"That's not developing. If that happens I'd rather play in the Swedish elite league, which is a much better league than any of the minors."


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