The Leafs head to the capital tonight to take on their bitter provincial rivals, the Ottawa Senators, for the third time in seven preseason games.
Tonight’s game figures to be the last chance for players on the bubble, including highly-touted Nazem Kadri, to make a lasting impression. When asked about these players, head coach Ron Wilson was emphatic:
“When the puck drops on the first day, you better be ready to go. No tip-toeing around. No â€˜oh, the waterâ€™s cold, Iâ€™ll wait until it warms up a bitâ€™. Nope, youâ€™re diving in and the guys who didnâ€™t, as [Leafs' GM Brian Burke] said, theyâ€™re waiting by the bus stop. Well, they missed it, the bus already left. Now their job is running down the road hoping they can get on.” (via)
With the pre-season set to end with a home-and-home against Detroit to open the month of October, the general sentiment is the Leafs will use a roster for those games comprised of the players who are expected be with the NHL club on opening night. For Nazem Kadri, John Mitchell, Jay Rosehill and Mike Zigomanis, tonight (or by a slim chance the first of the two Detroit games) may be their last shot.
Pregame News & Notes
- Fredrick Sjostrom will make his return from shoulder surgery tonight.
- Luke Schenn has a minor back ailment and will not play tonight.
- Jeff Finger continues to nurse a knee injury and will once again remain on the sidelines.
- Mike Brown gets a rest day today, as does Jonas Gustavsson. Also sitting this one out are Kris Versteeg and Danny Richmond, who will practice with the team before flying to Chicago to receive their Stanley Cup rings.
- Accordingly, Jay Rosehill will replace Brown and James Reimer will be the backup goaltender tonight.
- In Versteeg’s absence, Kadri is expected to play left wing on the top line with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel. To accommodate Richmond’s absence, Korbinian Holzer – previously sent to the Marlies – has been recalled.
- One of Clarke MacArthur or Nikolai Kulemin is also likely to be given a rest, in which case Luca Caputi (who will lose his regular spot to Sjostrom) would become the replacement on the second line.
- Speaking of whom, it would come as a shock if Caputi, who has had an encouraging preseason, does not survive the final cuts.
- Tim Brent has been quietly impressive, and barring an exceptional effort by Kadri or Mitchell should have the third-line centre role all but locked down for the time being.
- Rumours continue to persist that the Leafs will look to add a veteran centre to the mix at some point during the early part of the season given the relative inexperience at the position (Grabovski has the most NHL experience at 2 years and counting). With a couple players sent back to Junior, there is once again room under the 50-contract limit. Cap space is another story, and will continue to bar the Leafs from making any moves until a solution is figured out.
- And finally: it is far from a catastrophe if Nazem Kadri does indeed get demoted to the AHL. Despite certain writers’ attempts to convince us that the city will revert to mob rule if he is, the fact remains that each player develops at his own pace, and a longer developmental curve does not impact one’s overall career.Â Current Ducks’ stars Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan — who developed under Burke’s watch — can attest to the value of additional AHL/CHL time. And, love him or hate him, starting his career off in the AHL certainly had a positive impact on the career of Ottawa’s Jason Spezza. This faux panic is much ado about nothing, as Shakespeare would say. Well, other than selling papers that is.
Expected Lineup (per Jonas Siegel)
Kadri – Bozak – Kessel
(Caputi/MacArthur) Grabovski (Caputi/Kulemin)
Sjostrom – Brent – Armstrong
Orr – Mitchell – Rosehill
Beauchemin – Phaneuf
Kaberle – Komisarek
Gunnarsson – Holzer
Looking forward to your thoughts as always,