Reports indicate that Phil Kessel will definitely be in the lineup tomorrow night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Â The much-anticipated debut of the young winger has been a hot topic of late with information surfacing in the last few weeks that he would be ready before the previously upheld mid-November estimate. Â With the Leafs playing much better in recent games, it will be interesting to see how Kessel fits in. Â Fans should not expect him to be completely in form yet, as he will need some time to get into game-shape.
We also received an answer to the long-standing question of who Kessel would play with, as he was practicing on a line with Matt Stajan and Jason Blake today. Â This line has the potential to make some noise. Â Blake has stepped it up after a slow start and is beginning to drive the net again, which is what he does when he is at his best. Â On the other hand, Stajan has cooled off after a hot streak to start this campaign. Â Yet Stajan’s to distribute the puck and play smart hockey should give Kessel more time and space to get to work.
However, the players should be careful to keep up the level of intensity and effort they have displayed in recent games. Â They cannot expect Kessel to do it all for them. Â If they maintain their level of play, the added dimension of Kessel’s game-breaking speed and shot will have a massive impact on their ability to win consistently.
As a result of Kessel’s return, Jiri Tlusty will likely be sent back down to the Marlies. Â While he was not quite given a chance this time around, the fact that the organization considers him to be a top call-up bodes well for his future. Â He should return to Toronto’s farm club and pick up where he left off in his solid scoring campaign.
Here are the lines from Leafs practice: