As the preseason winds down and only two games remain before the regular season begins, the Leafs have made some roster cuts with a few more still to come. The jobs that are available are a precious few as the Leafs head into their first regular season game against Ottawa on Wednesday with a veteran-filled squad.
The top three lines are set. Curtis Joseph will be the starting goalie and even though the defence has been shaky in the preseason, there will only be one or two spots available. About the only unanswered question currently is the players making up the fourth line. Still, over the last three preseason games, Leaf Coach Pat Quinn has been pleased with the play of some of the younger players.
"We've had a lot of good play from a number of players," Quinn said after Thursday's win over Buffalo. "Brad Boyes has played real well and two other young guys, (Alexei) Ponikarovsky and Jeff Farkas did very well. I think it was Nik's (Antropov) best outing for much of the game. (Anders) Erikkson played his best game and (Karel) Pilar was good too."
Ponikarovsky was the only one from that group to be assigned to St. John's on Friday. Boyes will most certainly be sent back to Erie of the OHL. Although he has shown flashes of why the Leafs took him with their first pick in the 2000 Entry Draft, he wasn't expected to make the team this year. Farkas, Antropov, Alyn McCauley and unheralded Bob Wren will all be vying for a spot on the fourth line. However, when Tie Domi returns from his eight-game suspension, there simply won't be enough room for all of them.
"We may keep one or two guys a little longer just to have an extra look," said Quinn. "The last two games we'll play pretty close to what we'll go with to start the season."
The job to back up Joseph will likely go to Corey Schwab. The Leafs had hoped that prospect Mikael Tellqvist would win the job, but the young Swedish netminder has struggled at times during the preseason and will likely get more seasoning in St. John's. Unless the Leafs acquire another veteran goaltender, expect Schwab to receive a contract offer.