If Ron Wilson has his way, Viktor Stalberg will be in the starting lineup when the Toronto Maple Leafs open the regular schedule Thursday night.
After a 7-6 loss to the Buffalo Sabres in the final pre-season game for both teams on Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs head coach told reporters that Stalberg will likely be the lone rookie to crack the roster.
“I think right now that Stalberg will be in the starting lineup opening night, but he will probably be the only one,” Wilson said.
Before the game, Toronto sent Nazem Kadri back to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. They also sent down Christian Hanson and Jonas Frogren to the American Hockey League.
Wilson said he expected the rookies on the club (Kadri, Stalberg, Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson) to play well in the exhibition season.
“That is why Brian went out and signed those young kids.
“I wasn’t sure if Kadri would play as well as he did, but I fully expected the college kids to play well and they have and unfortunately we just don’t have enough room for them to be promoted to our team.”
Thomas Vanek scored twice, including the winner on the power play in the third period to give the Sabres the victory.
Matt Ellis, Clarke McArthur, Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht and Tim Kennedy also scored for Buffalo.
Lee Stempniak scored two for the Leafs with singles to Stalberg, Nikolai Kulemin, Jason Blake and Mikhail Grabovski.
Vanek’s first tally of the night came 12:38 into the second period on the power play when he managed to knock the puck over the goal line just out of the reach of goalie Vesa Toskala’s glove to give the Sabres (4-1-1) a 3-2 lead.
His second of the evening also came with the man advantage. This time he tipped a Derek Roy shot from the right face off circle.
Neither goalie looked especially sharp in their final tune up allowing 13 goals between them on 51 shots.
Toronto (6-3) starter Toskala made 20 saves on 27 shots, while Sabres netminder Patrick Lalime stopped 18 of the 24 pucks fired at him.
Buffalo took a 5-4 lead when forward Kennedy wired a shot past the outstretched glove of Toskala with 17:33 left in the game.
Before the go-ahead goal Hecht tied the match at four when he deposited the puck into an empty net 1:15 into the third period.
Toronto came right back and tied the tilt with the 10th goal of game.
Stempniak notched his second of the contest when he managed to sneak the puck past the blocker of Lalime with 13:45 left in the game.
That would not be it for the scoring.
Toronto made up for a slow start in the first period and took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission on markers by Stalberg and Stempniak.
Both teams went lengthy stretches in the period without recording a shot on either net. The Leafs first shot of the game came with 11:56 remaining, while Buffalo went shotless for five and three minutes respectively.
Toronto led 4-3 following the second period but Buffalo turned on the offence in the final frame scoring four times.
Notes: Nazem Kadri sent back to London … Christian Hanson and Jonas Frogren sent down to Toronto Marlies … Andy Rogers was released … Toronto is the only team in the NHL to have three rookies lead the team in scoring … Stalberg has three power play goals … Mike Komisarek left the game after the second period after his leg tightened up. Toronto decided to rest him in the third as a precaution but afterwards Wilson said his leg had tightened up and wasn’t too much of a concern.