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ice hockey

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    It’s a hit no one ever wants to happen. It’s the type of collision in which there was no intent to injure, and still a player is left in an unfortunate state. It’s the hit that has left Ben Fanelli in a critical but stable state in the hospital with skull and facial fractures, and Mike Liambas at home deeply depressed and feeling awful over the game he loves.

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      Montreal always brings out the best in Tomas Kaberle .. Halloween might have displayed a different kind of trick .. one he’s done before, and before that, and maybe even before that too.

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        I know, I know.  It’s just one win.

        But you have to admit, it still feels good.   Somewhat of a sense of relief is sweeping through Leafs Nation today.  A sense that, although there is still a long way to go, things are not at a total loss.   This team can find ways to win, and appears to be rounding into the sort of form envisioned by GM Brian Burke during a busy and much-hyped (over-hyped?) offseason.

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          … they didn’t give up the fight.

          Maple Leafs’ fans should be very pleased with the effort displayed in last night’s 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.   Although another loss is disappointing on the surface, there is much to feel good about in regard to the team’s play following a week’s break.  It is not often that one can look at a loss as a game to instill confidence; however, last night’s game should serve to do exactly that, among both players and fans alike.

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            Despite eight new faces in tonight’s season opening lineup against the Montreal Canadiens, many of the recurring themes of futility from last year were evident again in the 4-3 overtime loss. Poor defensive zone coverage, poor penalty killing, questionable moments in the net, and the snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory late in the game. Despite the disappointing loss, there were a few bright spots: namely the play of the top line led by Matt Stajan and Viktor Stalberg.

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              I had the privilege of a great view from the Gold section, ten rows off the ice to witness a fairly decent game with plenty of positives. It was my first time in the lower bowl, so it was certainly an exciting and interesting experience to see how the other side lives. Impressive performances carried over from the rookie tournament by Tyler Bozak, the game’s first star, and fellow collegiate rookie Viktor Stalberg.

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                Leafs coach, Ron Wilson made it clear, Nazem Kadri will not be getting a nine-game audition this season, just to be sent down to the OHL London Knights. Answering questions in the media scrum after the scrimmage at training camp in the Mastercard Centre of Hockey Excellence, Wilson was adamant about being against an audition for the young pivot. In order to stick with the Leafs, the 1st round pick in the 2009 draft will have to beat out one of Mikhail Grabovski, or Matt Stajan for a top-6 role in order to stick, and as of Wilson right now, both are ‘way ahead’ of Kadri for a spot at the moment.

                Kadri will get every opportunity to earn a top-6 spot, but unless he completely overwhelms, expect to see him in London for the entire season.

                More notes from Training Camp, Day 2.

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                  The Maple Leafs began on-ice workouts today at their new practice facility, the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.

                  I’ve been given credentials and was on site for the first day and will be attending all three days of on ice practice.

                  The following are a series of notes from Day 1 …

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                    While many of us were toiling away on “live online blogs” to get our hockey fix, a few MLHS writers were fortunate enough to make the trip down to see Game 2 of the rookie tournament in Kitchener against the Boston Bruins. Down at the rink, MLHS’ own Gus Katsaros managed to sneak in a few minutes with Leaf GM Brian Burke and rookie Nazem Kadri to chat about the game and the upcoming season.

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                      I won’t go into a lot of detail about the game itself, as Alec covered that quite well.

                      The news, for the most part, was good.   Many of the Leafs’ prospects were impressive in their bids to earn a spot on the big club and/or the Marlies.   The following is a quick summation of some of the things that stood out to me from my vantage point at the game.

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                        Via Darren Dreger of TSN, goaltender Justin Pogge has been traded to the Anaheim Ducks. The deal is expected to be completed on Monday, with Toronto receiving a conditional late round pick that can improve based on Pogge’s play.

                        The Maple Leafs have also signed free agent goaltender Joey Macdonald to provide some depth on the Marlies. The 29 year old Macdonald played 49 games for the New York Islanders last season, posting a 3.37 GAA and .901 SV%.

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                          Brian Burke has been keeping himself relatively busy since returning from his fishing trip.  While they have been all minor league signings, he has locked up three Marlies, securing depth for both our farm team and the big club.

                          -Alex Foster received a one year, two-way deal at the league minimum of 500 000.

                          -Andre Deveaux received a similar one year, two-way deal, also at 500 000.

                          -Darryl Boyce received a two year, two-way deal that averages out to roughly 525 000 per year.

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                            A small late afternoon treat for the readers of MLHS.

                            This is a terrific compilation of various OHL highlights by Nazem Kadri, Toronto’s seventh overall selection in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Props to maker Mike Mali for this fantastic video.

                            Time to take in the skill, the creativity and the electric talent that is “Naz”.

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                              Even in the days of modern technology, many still profess that meteorology is an inexact science more guess work than theory. The very same can be said when scouting goaltenders. For every Mark-Andre Fleury (selected 1st overall in 2003) there’s a Brent Krahn (selected 9th overall in 2000). Meanwhile recent Vezina nominees and winners such as Tim Thomas, Mikka Kiprusoff and Evgeni Nabokov had to wait until the 217th, 116th and 219th selections respectively to see their names on the board. Indeed, the vast majority of netminders who started a game last season in the NHL had long waits deep into the second day to see their dreams realized while others went completely unnoticed only to resurface as free agents years later.

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                                The ability to select future stars or even useful role players in the mid-late rounds is what separates the pretenders from the contenders. The class of the NHL when it comes to late round drafting are the Detroit Red Wings, with players like Helm (5th), Franzen (3rd), Filppula (2nd), Hudler (3rd), Ericsson (9th), Zetterberg (7th) and Datsyuk (6th) all playing key roles on a Stanley Cup Finalist team. As E.J. Mcguire alluded to in the previous chapter of Draft Watch ’09, there will be plenty of potential impact players available beyond the first round of this year’s entry draft. Let’s take a look at some of the names:

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                                  The latest from a trusted source:

                                  “Burke may have been playing possum in order to move up to get Duchene when he was saying he wanted Tavares but no one is indulging him….

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                                    Two contrasts in Leafs prospects from the Memorial Cup with Chris Didomenico breaking his left femur, and the continued development of Dale Mitchell.

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                                      Maple Leaf forward prospect Christopher Didomenico from the Drummondville Voltigueurs of the QMJHL suffered a broken thigh bone in his left leg and is expected to be out at least 4-6 months after crashing hard into the boards during last night’s playoff game against Shawinigan. Similar to the injury to Minnesota Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster last season, the incident occurred as a result of two players chasing the puck during a potential icing call.