There aren’t many coaches blessed with the option of rolling out another 30-minute workhorse defenceman once his main guy goes out with injury.
But there was Leafs coach Paul Maurice, Monday morning, briefing assembled media and other ne’er-do-wells on the plans for the Leafs blueline now that Bryan McCabe has been lost for six to eight weeks with a broken hand.
McCabe sustained his injury in Montreal, where all bad things happen, when he tried to brace himself as he was being pulled down and instead broke three bones.
Maurice hasn’t backed
down on this original assertion that the play was dirty.
“Yeah. It wasn’t dirty like spear you in the chin dirty, like a two-hander over the head dirty, but he reached from behind and pulled him back and he broke three bones in his hand. It’s not a clean play.”
There will be no league discipline so the only bit of wonder left to the sorry business is when McCabe will have his surgery and how long until he can come back. The Leafs are banking on six to eight weeks until notified otherwise.
All this meant good news for Anton Stralman, the talented Swedish defenceman who was due for some. Stralman was just coming back from a 12-hour drive through the snow from Hershey home and while they do indeed have snow back home in Sweden, it is also true they don’t have December trips to Hershey.
While the kid has rung up decent stats with the Marlies (zero goals, 11 assists, plus three in 21 games) it sounded like he wasn’t Maurice’s first choice.
“(Bryan) Muir is injured and (Staffan) Kronwall is injured and (Jay) Harrison’s playing really well but we need someone to move the puck and take up some power play minutes. That’s why he (Stralman) is here.”
“Hopefully I got a bit more experience, learned the game a bit more and hopefully that will help me here,” Stralman said hopefully.
Stralman will likely take his turn with Andy Wozniewski. Tomas Kaberle and has worked with Kubina on the Czech National Team and the two have been periodically paired together. It only makes sense for Maurice to team those two and leave what has emerged as an increasingly effective pairing, Hal Gill and Ian White, together.
Kubina, meanwhile, is keen for more ice time. He has only played more than 30 minutes once this season, while McCabe has passed the 30-minute mark eight times. Still McCabe’s ice time per night, 26:22 is at least in the neighborhood as what Kubina (23:28) was drawing.
“I feel better if I go every other shift on the ice,” said the six-foot-four, 244-pound Kubina. “I feel like I’m sharper and overall I feel better about my game.”
Maurice cautioned against Carlo Colaiacovo stepping in for McCabe. Colaiacovo is recovering from right knee surgery. He has just begun skating with assistant coach Dallas Eakins. He will make the five games remaining on the Leafs’ mammoth road trip, but right now the club doesn’t know how long before he can practice with teammates.
“Until we can get him through three or four days of NHL practice and have him come back to me and say he feels good, I don’t have an expectation for him this trip,” Maurice said.