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Looking to Stick

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Jamal Mayers | Ron Wilson | Luke Schenn | Curtis Joseph

There is a protocol in every bus and dressing room, from the NHL down through the American League and into the furthest reaches of the minor pros.

New players get the front of the bus. Veterans get the back. Derek Jeter’s locker is in the corner of the New York Yankees dressing room. Phil Hughes’ stall is somewhat less glorious.

When Kyle Rogers took off his skates after Leafs practice Tuesday, he did so on a folding chair set in the middle of the dressing room. The message is implicit enough: he might have a spot in the Leafs room, but he’s a long, long way from being a regular.

Still, while a host of Marlies have been sent down, Rogers, a late season addition from Niagara University remains with the big club.

It is, explains Coach Ron Wilson, about getting a look at the kid.

Rogers is a six-foot-three and 215 pound 23-year old. He skates well and he has shown glimpses of a widely expandable hockey IQ. He remains very green, Rogers played in only two regular season games for the Marlies last season and played about half the games as the Marlies went into the third round of the playoffs. He has yet to score a goal. Did we mention that he was a long term project?

“We’re just giving Kyle a little bit of a chance to get his feet wet and start his pro career and know what he’s got to work on,” Wilson said.

That career takes another step forward on Wednesday in St. Louis. Rogers will make the trip and should play against the Blues.

“There are little things I’ve got to learn to stay up here,” Rogers said. “I like it but I can’t take anything for granted.”

For now, Rogers is definitely on his way down but things aren’t anywhere near as clear cut among the defencemen.

“We’ve got more depth here than just about any team I’ve coached,” Wilson said.

Unless he completely regresses, Luke Schenn seems sure to make the Leafs. The Leafs are sure to carry Pavel Kubina, Jonas Frogren, Tomas Kaberle, Anton Stralman and Jeff Finger. That likely leaves two or three sports for competition between Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian White, Mike Van Ryn and Staffan Kronwall.

Curtis Joseph will play the entire contest..

Wilson, meanwhile, is still looking for chemistry on a line comprised of Nik Antropov, Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovsky.
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