On a day that Jason Allison declared himself fit to resume his NHL career, two other Maple Leaf regulars got to know new head athletic therapist Kevin Wagner better.
Leafs coach Pat Quinn revealed that defenceman Aki Berg is nursing sore ribs and was not slated to make the trip for pre-season games in Montreal tonight and Ottawa tomorrow. Fellow defenceman Bryan McCabe, meanwhile, tweaked a groin muscle during a win against the Canadiens on Thursday and did not skate yesterday.
Also missing the skate were defencemen Carlo Colaiacovo (foot) and Staffan Kronwall (foot)and goalie J.S. Aubin (muscle pull). All except Aubin are expected to make the trip.
Defenceman Ken Klee (heel) will not make the trip.
Allison most certainly will, and though it is just a pre-season game, he's excited to get going. Injuries forced Allison, who has been sidelined by a hip flexor strain in camp, to miss the entire season before the lockout. He has not skated in an NHL game since January 2003.
"I've felt great for about two or three days now," Allison said after a camp session yesterday at Ricoh Coliseum. "It's exciting for me. I think Oct. 5 (the night of the Leafs' regular-season opener against the Ottawa Senators) will be much more exciting, but (tonight) will be my first time with Toronto. Everyone gets a little nervous, but it won't affect my play."
Defenceman Brad Brown, in camp on a two-way contract but with 330 games of NHL experience, also figured he would be in the lineup tonight at the Bell Centre after getting over a hip flexor pull.
19 PLAYERS CUT
The Leafs cut 19 players yesterday, but none of the moves were unexpected. The roster is at 37 players and it's probable Quinn will make a few more cuts Monday following the weekend games.
The Leafs will continue to get used to the tightened reins on obstruction and interference and the exclusion of the centre-ice line. The adjustment phase, however, still is in its infancy stages.
One change is that forwards find they don't have to rush to get rid of the puck.
"It's one of the things everybody is talking about," Darcy Tucker said. "There is a lot of space, but a lot of it is dead space. I find a lot of passes are missing (their targets). The games are scrambly and a little out of sorts."
Despite his inactivity, Allison does not think he will have a ton of catching up to do. He has observed a few differences in watching the Leafs' previous three pre-season matches.
"There is more time with the puck down low and offensively you are going to have to be more patient," Allison said. "Once you get good control, especially for bigger guys, it is going to be hard (for defenders) to get the puck back."
Whatever the case, Quinn cautioned against reading too much into his line combinations this weekend.
"We still have some time to go and some more moves to make to get a better assessment of who fits with who," Quinn said.