TORONTO (CP) – Brandon Kozun went from on the bubble to on the team.
Flashing his speed and offensive skills, Kozun took what was likely the final step to shoring up a spot on the Maple Leafs' opening-night roster with another strong performance in Toronto's pre-season finale.
The five-foot-eight, 167-pound winger had a goal and two assists in the Leafs' 5-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night and continued to stand out in a crowded forward group. Coach Randy Carlyle called Kozun's play "desperate'' and meant it in a good way.
"He's very noticeable, and we think that he's gotten more comfortable,'' Carlyle said. "He's making life difficult for the opposition and making life easy for the coaching staff and management to notice him.''
The 24-year-old Kozun set up Jake Gardiner's goal with a drop pass and a pick on a Red Wings defender, fed captain Dion Phaneuf for one of his two goals and scored on a nifty back-hander past ex-Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.
Kozun finished the pre-season with five points (two goals, three assists) and very well may have made 26-year-old winger Matt Frattin expendable. Even with a surplus of forwards on one-way contracts, Kozun has played well enough to stick around against the odds.
"I'm coming here with that attitude that I've got to work as hard as I can,'' said Kozun, who didn't say if he thought he did enough to make the roster. "Those decisions are out of my hand. Just going to try and get better and hopefully I can help the team in any way possible.''
Phaneuf finished with three points and just missed out on a hat trick on a night Kozun, Gardiner and James van Riemsdyk each scored for the Leafs.
Getting a final tune-up before Wednesday's season opener against the Montreal Canadiens, Jonathan Bernier stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced. Bernier said he felt better in his second full exhibition game than in his first.
Xavier Oullet had the lone goal for the Red Wings, who experienced travel delays leaving Detroit and getting through Toronto traffic from the airport to the arena. The team arrived at about 6:45 p.m., and the game was delayed by about 15 minutes as a result.
One of the Leafs' biggest off-season additions, 37-year-old defenceman Stephane Robidas, looked good in making his pre-season debut after working back from a broken leg suffered in last year's playoffs. Robidas played on the top pair with Phaneuf, where he's expected to be at the start of the regular season.
"I felt pretty good,'' Robidas said. "Honestly I didn't know really what to expect. I felt great physically and mentally before the game.''
Carlyle said it wasn't the plan for Robidas to play 19 minutes 26 seconds in his first game action since April.
"But he's a hockey player,'' the Leafs' coach said. "He has that calming effect. He's a competitive guy. He's not a real flashy guy, but he does make real smart play. He's got a high IQ for the game.''
Winger Josh Leivo, another surprise candidate to make the 23-man roster, left the ice for medical attention in the second after blocking a shot but returned later in the period.
Toronto finished the pre-season 5-2-1.