Rickard Wallin has no illusions.
The goose egg that adorns his spot in the goal column looks awful, but it is not a great aberration.
“I’m 29 years old and I haven’t been able to make it before this year,” he said. “The top offensive players are better than me offensively. I can score in Europe but maybe not in this league as much as the top two centreman would do.”
Wallin centres the third unit. He has but two assists in 15 games . He is minus three. That is about as insignificant a statistical impact as a player could muster.
Tonight, Wallin is facing the Minnesota Wild, the team for whom he played 19 games in 2003-2004 and 2004-2005.
He would dearly love to end his drought.
“It does bother me,” he said. “I was used to scoring my whole career, more or less. The last couple of years I led my Swedish team in scoring. You have to keep telling yourself you are doing good things out there.”
Wallin leads the Leafs in intangibles. Take a look at his linemates. Lee Stempniak has been resurgent with four goals and nine points. After a teamwide slump, Nicklas Hagman has managed six goals including three in the Leafs’ critical 6-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks.
“Very smart player,” said Hagman. “Always on the right side of the puck.”
Coach Ron Wilson has praised Wallin’s defensive presence. Stempniak, meanwhile, disputes Wallin’s claim that he doesn’t possess the offensive skill to climb up the depth chart.
“I think he’s got a real offensive side,” he said. “ We just haven’t seen it yet.”
In his first incarnation, Wallin saw himself as an offensive player. He scored six goals but a lack of commitment to defence left the Wild disinterested and landed the Stockholm native in the minors and eventually, in Europe where his goal totals hovered around the low teens in 55 game seasons.
Now, Wallin wants a goal. Not a ton, just one.
More important, however, is to support Stempniak and Hagman as they dash up the ice. The offence, he insists, will arrive.
“Over here it’s tougher to score,” he said. “Hopefully playing my old team tonight and getting started with that first goal would be great for my confidence.”NOTES: Mike Komisarek
will be back in the lineup tonight. He left the Leafs last contest against Detroit with an undisclosed injury. Jonas Gustavsson
to make his seventh start in the Leafs last eight games tonight against Minnesota.