TORONTO - The Maple Leafs will have six new players in Thursday's lineup against Montreal from the team that ended last season in 29th place.
The two most surprising additions will be third and fourth line centres Tim Brent and Mike Zigomanis, who will take on a depleted Canadiens club at the Air Canada Centre.
Coach Ron Wilson had been saying for days that Brent had made the team, but confirmed after Wednesday morning’s practice at the MasterCard Centre that NHL veteran Zigomanis would be on the fourth unit. Centre John Mitchell, who was also kept ahead of forwards Nazem Kadri, Luca Caputi and Christian Hanson, will sit.
Wilson also said that injured defenceman Matt Lashoff has been placed on NHL waivers.
“Everyone has to be comfortable on their own (line),” Wilson said. “You can’t have guys on the third and fourth line think they’re supposed to be on the first line and they reluctantly do their jobs.”
New to the Leafs will be first line left wing Kris Versteeg, second line left wing Clarke MacArthur, Brent and third line right winger Colby Armstrong, plus Zigomanis and fourth line left winger Mike Brown. Mike Komisarek rejoins the defence after mid-season shoulder surgery.
While the Leafs are healthy, other than fringe defencemen Lashoff (shoulder), Brett Lebda (shoulder) and Jeff Finger (knee), Montreal is without suspended sniper Mike Cammalleri, injured defenceman Andrei Markov and at this point, flu-ridden goalie Carey Price.
“Everyone’s excited, we’ve worked really hard and now it’s up to us to start the year off on the right foot,” Komisarek said. “We fell short of the playoffs last year, that’s all I’m concerned with right now.”