Gustavsson, Stalberg miss Wednesday’s practice

Two highly touted pieces of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ future were not at practice on Wednesday.

Winger Viktor Stalberg and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson were absent from the ice one day after the Leafs dropped their third game in a row, this one a 2-1 decision to Ottawa.

“He’s got a bit of a tight groin right now,” coach Ron Wilson said of Gustavsson. “He’s had [that] for a couple of weeks, and with this being his first action, we just wanted to shut him down today.”

The Swedish netminder also missed time in the pre-season after undergoing a minor procedure on his heart.

At this point, Wilson plans to have his rookie goalie back on the ice for Thursday’s practice.

In Gustavsson’s place, the coaching staff put out a wooden cutout of a goalie to stand in one of the nets.

“We’re missing the net too many times,” Wilson said.

Right now there is no word as to who between Gustavsson, Vesa Toskala, or the wooden cutout will start the next game on Saturday. They’ll play at home against the Stanley Cup defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Possible concussion

As for Stalberg, he left Tuesday night’s game late in the first period after a hard but clean check by Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov.

“He had his bell rung and took the day off,” Wilson said. “I probably don’t expect him to be in the lineup on Saturday, but that might be too early to make a prognosis on him.

“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Stalberg will have to do a baseline test before returning to the ice, as is always the case for any player who potentially suffers a concussion, Wilson said.

After starting the season at 0-2-1, the players knew they were in for a tough practice, and readied themselves for it.

“It’s never too early,” forward Alexei Ponikarovsky said to TSN. “It’s just the way it is. You play a bad game, you just have to set your mind straight.

“To do that, you go through a hard practice and you know what needs to be done.”

The lines for the portion of practice that involved pucks were somewhat different than the ones used in the loss to Ottawa, but Wilson didn’t want anyone to look too much into it.

“Don’t go by what the lines were today,” Wilson said. “I just threw that together to get through practice. I’ve got to figure out some chemistry on a couple of lines that haven’t gotten anything going five-on-five.”

Toronto has now hit a stretch in its schedule that sees them play just four games over the next sixteen days, a situation that allows for hard practices like the one Wilson called for on Wednesday.

“It had quite a bit of skating,” Finnish winger Niklas Hagman said. “It was fairly tough.”