The Maple Leafs are in better shape physically than previously suggested.
Veteran defenceman Pavel Kubina is suffering from a sore knee, but skated in practice yesterday and should be ready in time to start the regular season on Oct. 9. However, another veteran defenceman, Jeff Finger, likely will miss the first week of the regular season with a bruised foot.
"It's point-tender when he puts his skate on, but every day it gets a little bit better," head coach Ron Wilson said, adding he won't push Finger to return. "He doesn't have to skate through the pain. It's training camp. Hopefully, he'll only miss a couple of games and be ready go in the second week of the season."
Wilson said rookie forward Nikolai Kulemin is expected to be out for a week with a minor knee injury. Forward Domenic Moore still is suffering from a sore groin and is out, while forward Jason Blake, who hurt his leg blocking a shot in Buffalo on Saturday, is expected to play tonight in Detroit.
Wilson acknowledged it's difficult to get a feel for his team and find the right line combinations when the Leafs have played six pre-season games since training camp broke on Sept.21.
"We've had six practices and six games, so it's kind of difficult to get everything in place, but it's coming together," Wilson said. "We haven't even been close to what would be our opening-night roster. It's been 10, 11, 12 guys and other people auditioning or trying to show us what they can do. But hopefully, knock on wood, we come out of the weekend unscathed and maybe on Sunday I could be fairly close to a lineup we would open with."
The Leafs now play three pre-season games back-to-back-to-back, starting in Detroit tonight, then a rematch tomorrow at the ACC and home Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"It will be a great test for us playing the Red Wings," Wilson said. "They're the Stanley Cup favourites, and I would think we would play a pretty powerful lineup (tonight) and Saturday they'd rest a few guys."
Wilson refused to react to comments made by Dallas Stars forward Sean Avery, who made disparaging remarks about the Leafs this week -- partly because they did not go after him as a free agent in the off-season.
Avery suggested the Leafs will be the worst team in the NHL this season.
"Why should I comment? I don't know Sean Avery," Wilson said. "He's entitled to his opinion."