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Versteeg Ready For New Challenge

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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Ron Wilson can do the math.

Reminded that Kris Versteeg scored twice in his first Leafs’ scrimmage, the Leafs coach managed the computations  without a calculator.

“Let’s see, two goals today,” he said. “That means 164 goals in a season. Anything less than that and I will be very disappointed.”

He would be the only one. Swapped for Viktor Stalberg, Chris DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis, Versteeg managed 20 goals and 44 points last season with the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks. The post-season brought 14 points in 22 games.

Francois Beauchemin, Brett Lebda, J.S. Giguere and Versteeg are the only current Leafs with a Stanley Cup ring.

The first real skate since June left Versteeg spinning his tires, at least at first.

“It’s a little bit quicker than men’s league in Lethbridge.  My head was turning every which way. I was struggling.”

Versteeg has a rare condition, or at least it was rare before the salary cap. A few months after winning a Cup and mere weeks after celebrating with friends and family, he is in a different team’s training camp.

Holdovers from last year packed up their gear two months before Versteeg did. That means a different training regimen. Versteeg isn’t concerned.

“I can’t see how it would hurt you unless you had injury problems coming out of the playoffs,” he said. “I was fine. I was a little run down, but you had two and a half months to recoup and work out for a month and a half. “

Players invariably find the season after a championship a murderous climb.  No matter how fervently they talk about a new season and putting the title behind them, defending a championship is invariably harder than winning one.

“Changing teams keeps you honest,” Versteeg said. “This is a new team.  I have to prove myself to a new team. It’s a new uphill battle for me and I have to be ready for the challenge.”

Notes: Marcel Mueller, Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Liambas and Mike Brown also scored in the scrimmage. The Leafs don’t expect to have checking winger Fredrik Sjostrom until the start of the regular season. Sjostrom had off-season shoulder surgery and has not been cleared for contact…Nazem Kadri looked unimpressive in Sunday’s scrimmage. Not so Clarke McArthur who was constantly making good things happens. Tomas Kaberle’s first scrimmage was uneventful. The veteran rearguard breezed through and was typically efficient in finding a target for his first pass. Defenceman Jeff Finger will miss a week because of a knee injury. He got tangled up with prospect Brayden Irwin on Saturday.
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