The Battle of Ontario is set to kick off in Toronto tonight with the Ottawa Senators in town to faceoff against their provincial rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in a preseason game. You can expect many young, new faces to be included in the lineup for tonight’s game, with the spotlight on the Leafs’ most talked-about rookie, Nazem Kadri.
General Manager Brian Burke and Head Coach Ron Wilson made it clear that Kadri will have to work hard to prove that he can handle playing at the NHL level before they give him a spot on the roster. Despite his weight gain during the off-season Kadri needs to prove that he can handle the important job of playing a key centreman role, while being able to step up defensively.
Kadri has demonstrated his offensive ability and speed, but looking at Burke’s track record, you can see that he likes his players to spend time in the AHL where players can mature and improve on their game. Kadri is no exception. He will be played in three of the first five games where he will have his big chance to show that he has what it takes.
Marcel Mueller and Jerry D’Amigo are two other names you can expect to hear much of,throughout the duration of the exhibition games to be played. Both Mueller and D’Amigo are already at NHL size and have shown potential to play at the professional level. Wilson said that he will be looking closely at these two players in particular.
Tonight’s lines and defensive pairings have been set for the pre-season opener, and will look a little something like this:
Forward Line 1: Versteeg,Kadri,Armstrong
ForwardLine 2: Rosehill,Hanson, Brown
ForwardLine 3: D’Amigo, Irwin, Mueller
ForwardLine 4: Hamilton, Zigomanis,Crabb
Defense Pair 1: Phaneuf ,Gunnarsson
Defense Pair 2: Lebda, Kaberle
Defense Pair 3: Lashoff, Gysbers
At the beginning of training camp, Phaneuf stated in an interview with Leafs TV, “We’re starting camp feeling really good about the group that we have and we’re very excited about getting things going.” You can expect high energy from the Leafs tonight right off the puck drop, as veteran Dion Phaneuf leads a newly revamped team.
Starting in net tonight will be ‘The Monster’, Jonas Gustavsson, whose goaltending duties will be split with the Finn rookie, Jussi Rynnas, expected to come in after 30 minutes of play.
Tonight’s pre-season game marks the beginning of the true test that players who are fighting for a spot on the team will go through, giving them a shot to make a first-class impression on the big stage.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. tonight from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.