Wednesday night’s game in Ottawa will be bonus stage time for several Maple Leafs, while a couple of injuries have cropped up.
Nazem Kadri, whose chances of making the team out of camp are very slim, will have to impress on left wing against the Senators at Scotiabank Place, though he's at least going to be on the first line with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel.
“I know I haven’t played my best,” the 19-year-old Kadri said Wednesday morning at the MasterCard Centre. “But today, I’m looking to change things around. I’m familiar with left wing (from his junior days with the London Knight), so I think I’ll blend in quite well.”
Assistant coach Tim Hunter said the biggest factor for Kadri is that he’ll get to play again, period. In three games he has no points and is minus three.
“He hasn’t played great and this is another opportunity. There are a couple of guys (in that boat). When you haven’t had a great training camp and the coaches show faith in you, then you’d better take advantage.”
Also getting another shot with only three exhibition games remaining is John Mitchell, who will centre the fourth line. Luca Caputi, a left winger bounced by the return of Fredrik Sjostrom to the lineup in Ottawa is going as well as defenceman Korbinian Holzer, called up from the Marlies to replace Luke Schenn.
Schenn was not at practice because of a sore back according to Hunter. Also absent from practice was netminder Jonas Gustavsson, who departed practice early on Tuesday. Head coach Ron Wilson insisted nothing was wrong, while Hunter said Wednesday that Gustavsson was given “a day off”.
Hunter might have been talking about Kadri and other bubble bioys when he was asked about Holzer’s sudden promotion.
“You get sent to the minors, you think your life is over. But things can change in a hurry.”
Caputi had played well enough to earn a spot on the third line left wing, but Sjostrom’s return from shoulder surgery means the best the Maple, Ont., native can do is be kept as an extra forward.
“That’s the cruelty of the NHL,” Hunter said. “There are other guys better than you and you have to live with that and work hard every day and try and get back in the good book of the coaches.”