The Leafs are BACK! (Leafs/Sens Pre-Game)
After months of nothing but Kaberle rumours and Grabovski lawsuits, Leafs Nation will finally get a glimpse of their 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs.Â Being the first game of the preseason, Toronto is going with a healthy mix of youngsters, borderliners, and veterans.Â Luckily, fans will not have to wait to see most of the new Leafs (Clarke MacArthur excepted) as off-season acquisitions Versteeg, Armstrong, Brown and Lebda will all be hitting the ice.
As our own Gus Katsaros has been reporting, Leafs training camp has been an upbeat and intense affair to date.Â Coach Wilson and newly-appointed Captain Phaneuf have been forcing their players to bring the hustle and grit to the point that there have been a few intra-squad skirmishes and some big hits.Â While players such as Mike Komisarek have embraced this intensity with aplomb, new additions such as Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong have been slightly taken aback by the vigour with which Toronto is approaching the preseason.
Leafs brass hopes this approach will get their team off running as they are desperate to avoid a poor start this season.Â Fans will get a look at one of the lines Ron Wilson is leaning towards starting the season with in Armstrong/Kadri/Versteeg.Â All three players have something to prove and their calling card as a group will be speed and determination.Â Nazem Kadri has an immense amount of pressure on him and it should be recognized that he will undoubtedly undergo an adjustment period as he gets used to the size, physicality, and defensive requirements of the big league.Â The second line should be looked at as the “NHL hopefuls” as all of Mueller, Irwin and D’Amigo are looking to steal one of the open roster spots.Â The third and fourth line will be a mixture of enforcers and AHLers and as such we will surely see some fisticuffs as these players strive to contribute somehow.Â The blueline will feature locks such as Dion Phaneuf and Tomas Kaberle, but will also allow a first glimpse at players such as Lebda and Lashoff who are part of the dogfight for the 6/7th defenseman spot.
This game and the events that will happen therein will inevitably spawn a maelstrom of media and fan analysis.Â The cautionary observer would warn against reading too much into anything that happens during the very first preseason game of this NHL season.Â But you know it will happen.Â That’s Leafs hockey.Â And damn, it feels good to have it back.
The Leafs lineup, courtesy of Chris Johnston of the CP:
Tonight’s game will be televised on Sportsnet Ontario at 7 PM.