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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.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will host their rookie tournament this year in London, Ontario from September 11th to the 14th, and Maple Leafs Hot Stove will have unprecedented, wall-to-wall coverage of the event.
Join us here for live game blogs, game previews, game reviews, exclusive interviews, and more! Â Today, we will look at the top ten Leafs players who will be worth paying extra close attention to at this weekend’s event.
Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11.Today we feature Phil Kessel, profiled by Garrett Bauman.
Acquired via a controversial trade during the 2009 offseason in which three draft picks were sent to the Bruins, Kessel rebounded from shoulder surgery to become the Maple Leafs go-to guy in the offensive zone.
Despite missing a month of the season, the electrifying 22-year old winger led the Maple Leafs in several offensive categories while providing the team with a legitimate scoring threat — and their first 30-goal scorer of the post-Sundin era.
Only 22, Kessel has a bright future ahead of him and many suspect it will be only a matter of time before 40-goal seasons become the norm.
Yesterday was a big day in Leafs Nation. Â And I think I speak for all fans when I say it’s about time. Â While two teams are currently battling for the opportunity to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Toronto Maple Leafs have been forced to sit on the sidelines and watch, bide their time with the other half of the league who wasn’t fortunate enough to make into the NHL’s playoffs.
And while they have kept themselves busy, and Brian Burke has shown a penchant for rarely letting his team slip into the background, a lot of hype has been leading toward this time of year.
Even without a first-or second-round draft pick, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still making plenty of waves, and it appears Burke is fit to make an impression at the draft, whether he is selecting or not.
Which, although he would never admit it, would be the perfect way to steal the spotlight back from the doom and gloom position of Boston using the Leafs pick to select a potential franchise cornerstone.
Tomas Kaberle, long been rumoured to be on his way out of Toronto, may be inching closer and closer with each passing day. Â As the calendar flipped to June yesterday, and now with the entry draft and free agency now firmly in sight on the horizon, it appears Kaberle’s time with the Toronto Maple Leafs is now being measured in days.
Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to even themselves up with a few clubs by securing two points in a win against the Philadelphia Flyers in their final home game of the season. Meanwhile, Philly is trying to keep their playoff hopes alive in a crucial night in which the Rangers, who trail the Flyers by two points, are also playing and looking to oust the Flyers from the post-season picture.
Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs hope to rebound from their loss to the Panthers with a win tonight against another team they must steal points from – the Atlanta Thrashers. The Leafs continue their quest to remove themselves from the bottom five in the third of four meetings with Atlanta this season.
Tonight, the Buds and Habs are set to battle it out and put their win streaks on the line. The Leafs are 5-1-0 in their last 6 outings, while the Canadiens are riding an impressive 6 game string of victories. With Toronto now over 0.500 at home (15-14-5), they are looking to play the role of heartbreakers this season, and what better way to continue doing so then by throwing a big fat L at Montreal tonight?
Per Darren Dreger (TSN):
“MRI determines Keith Aulie requires shoulder surgery. He’s done for the year.”
Not expected to play with the Maple Leafs at any point this season, Aulie was set to receive big minutes down the stretch with the AHL Marlies as the NHL club evaluated his progress with an eye toward the future. Although the injury is an unfortunate development for the well-regarded blueline prospect, he is still considered to be at least another year away from being ready for full-time NHL duty.Â In that respect, the overall impact of the time missed will be minimal.
Ever since the Leafs’ late-offseason acquisition of Phil Kessel, his performance has been (understandably) heavily-scrutinized in the face of the hefty amount of futures given up to secure the extremely talented winger.
Kessel’s season has, in some ways, mirrored that of his teammates, with periods of great productivity followed by periods of near-invisibility. However, considering a host of issues which seemingly stood in the way of a productive season, including significant shoulder surgery, causing him to miss out on training camp, and the lack of talent surrounding him, the Leafs’ young sniper has produced at a rate which, in the context of the aforementioned factors, is actually quite impressive.
Last season, Phil Kessel registered 14 of 24 assists in an 18-game span, with 10 more over 58 games. He battled an ugly 14-game goalless skid (14-0-3-3), three games before going down to a case of mono in January, and 11 games after his return.
In short, assists arenâ€™t his strong suit. Heâ€™s had more goals than assists in every season except his rookie season.
Well, break your selfish streak, Mr. Kessel and you’ll break your slump. One assist at a time.
For all the headlines the franchise had made off the ice, it’s the Phoenix Coyotes on ice product that should be making the news.
Led by a core of young, talented hard working players, and solid goaltending by Ilya Bryzgalov, the Coyotes have been one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season, and continued their winning ways tonight defeating the Leafs 6-3 in Toronto, denying the Leafs of their fifth straight win on home ice.
Petr Prucha score twice for the Coyotes, while Vernon Fiddler, Paul Bissonnette, Scottie Upshall and Radim Vrbata all tallied singles for Phoenix. Â Jamal Mayers, Phil Kessel, and Alexei Ponikarovsky replied for Toronto.
There is a lot going on Â around the league these days. Â Â Rumours about Kaberle and potential deals abound, a Kessel signing is no longer imminent, Heatley is still a Senator, and the NHL remains hot over the Hossa contract. Â Oh, and did I mention the league still has a bounty on the head of Jim Balsillie?
All of these stories have been playing out for months now, and none appear headed toward a resolution prior to the start of the new season. Â Â It is safe to assume that despite the vast quantity of reporting devoted to these stories throughout the offseason, each will continue to dominate the headlines on days where the box scores do not.