Leafs fans have been waiting for John Mitchell to step up and start burying his opportunities to legitimize himself as a top 6 forward, where depth is lacking. At Wednesday’s practice, he received that opportunity and looks to excel at it as he was paired up with sniper Phil Kessel to establish some chemistry before Friday night’s matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I like the way Mitchy played last night,” said Ron Wilson on Tuesday night’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. “His speed matches up and again I’m experimenting. Nothing more, nothing less. I think he might be able to match up with these guys. Again, it’s about finishing off the opportunities, who’s been on the ice for a lot of goals for, etc. and things like that, that’s all it is.”
“I have no goals, and playing with someone offensively like that will give me a little more opportunity to skate a little bit more and get to open ice and he feeds me and I feed him, and hopefully we can click well. I felt good out there, especially in the overtime where I did have the one opportunity, so hopefully we can build on that as a line and go from there.”
The Leafs are hoping Kessel finds immediate chemistry with Mitchell to solidify a second line scoring unit on the club. Kessel had 10 shots in his first game back from shoulder injury and looks to find his first of the season on Friday night in Carolina. The Leafs will then head back home to host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
Ron Wilson spoke out about the goaltending controversy by stating “who ever gives us the best chance to win, he’ll get the start in goal.” If Wilson stands by his words, that would suggest that Vesa Toskala will never get a start in a Leaf jersey again.
When asked if the rest of the team stepped up because of Phil Kessel, Ron Wilson stated “I don’t know if the whole team played better but having a guy like Phil out there, he’s better than the rest of our players, so obviously you’re going to see that in the way that he plays. We’ve been playing like this for two weeks now and having Phil in makes us even better.”
Leafs Lines in Practice:
Jason Blake – John Mitchell – Phil Kessel
Alexei Ponikarovsky – Mikhail Grabovski – Nikolai Kulemin
Niklas Hagman – Matt Stajan – Lee Stempniak
Colton Orr – Wayne Primeau – Rickard Wallin
Jamal Mayers – Jay Rosehill
Tomas Kaberle – Francois Beauchemin
Mike Komisarek – Ian White
Garnet Exelby – Luke Schenn
Also, click here to see Christian Hanson score goal by hitting puck in mid-air, in the Marlies/Heat recap from October 20th. If you want to see what Hanson looks like as a “power forward” definitely check this out. Impressive to say the least.
Micheal A. Aldred