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Mueller Finally Pots First Goal

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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Twenty-one games.

That will be the number attached to Marcel Mueller’s debut with the Toronto Marlies.

It took Mueller 21 games before he finally scored his first North American goal, Wednesday, in a 3-1 win over Grand Rapids at the Ricoh Coliseum.

“I would say,” apprised Marlies coach Dallas Eakins, “he’s lost about 40 pounds that was sitting on his back.”

Signed as a free agent out of Germany by Leafs’ General Manager Brian Burke, Mueller was keenly pursued but showed little in training camp and in his early days with the Marlies.

As he acclimated himself, his game got better.

“I was having chances, but I knew it was a matter of time,” he said. “I’m happy the goal finally came.”

In between first reporting to work and finally netting his inaugural goal came a road trip that lasted better than two weeks, countless practices and 45 days without a red light.

When it came, the Marlies bench erupted and centreman Justin Hodgman retrieved the puck.

In retrospect, Mueller sees now that he wasn’t ready for what he found in North America: the ruggedness of the nightly grind, the new dimensions of the rink and the havoc they played with his comfort on the ice.

“There is such intensity here. The game is very quick and the number of back-to back games can be challenging.”

“I think adapting to the North American rink is big,” Eakins said. “In Europe with a rink that size, you can find places to rest during a shift. It’s more intense here, but I wasn’t worried about Marcel.  We scout for skill and that can mean players who are small. Marcel has all kinds of skill, he can skate like the wind, but he’s six-foot-three and very strong.”

Mueller’s progress is no incidental matter. With defenceman Keith Aulie and first-rounder Nazem Kadri already on the Leafs roster, the focus shifts to the next wave: Mueller, goalie Jussi Rynnas and forwards Christian Hanson and Jerry D’Amigo.

Meanwhile, Mueller is hoping he won’t have to wait as long for another goal. The puck, with a strip of white hockey tape denoting its importance is safely tucked away in a small toiletries bag.

“I’m going to keep it here,” he said, “for good luck.”
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