TORONTO - A great morning for the political right wing in Toronto became a bad night for Maple Leafs right winger Colby Armstrong.
Just 52 seconds into Tuesday’s match against Florida and only a few minutes after he accepted a pre-game award for community service, Armstrong disappeared down the east end tunnel, the apparent victim of a slash on the arm or hand.
For a team that made it through seven games with four wins and no injuries, compared to no wins and three players missing at this time last year, it could have been a major disruption, as Armstrong plays a big role on the team.
But the Leafs took some heat off themselves with a late first-period goal — their first in the opening frame in five games — and alternated fourth liners Mike Brown and Colton Orr in Armstrong’s spot and slid Phil Kessel into the hole created on the crash line.
Orr wound up being credited with the 3-1 winning goal — looking more like Bobby Orr as he dove across the front of the net to avoid interfering with goalie Scott Clemmensen on the screen.
That his team could break through for a power-play goal was a big accomplishment for coach Ron Wilson. He warned about the Panthers being the least penalized team in the NHL coming in (15 in their first six games) and they showed Tuesday they can use their speed wisely, without going astray for the big hit or resort to obstruction.
Toronto had just two power plays to work with, while Florida forced Toronto into giving up a goal on the man advantage in back-to-back games for the first time this season. But the Leafs are doing better in the discipline department themselves, going short-handed more than four times in only three games this season.
The wind and rain were whipping outside, while inside the Air Canada Centre the first trade winds were starting up.
While it would be very unusual for the Leafs or another team to be hitting the eject button on a player before the 10-game mark, general manager Brian Burke told
AM 640 radio on Monday he had received some solid offers, but nothing of an earth shattering nature and nothing imminent. The Leafs still have many players with the Toronto Marlies they haven’t seen and if they are thinking of something significant, it would presumably be first line centre.
booth side now
Burke and Wilson stood a better chances of winning a gold at the Olympics with David Booth in the lineup for Team USA. Their chances of beating the Florida Panthers decreased with Booth now recovered from concussion and owner of six points in six games coming into Tuesday.
“David can skate, shoot, he can make a difference in a game,” Wilson said. “They’re a bit of a different team from last year, they’ve got some new faces in the lineup. Whenever we’ve played them, I think they’ve been a very fast team and what we’ve got to do is stay out of the box.
“I think they are the least penalized team in the league, so they don’t give you many opportunities on the power play. And I think that’s a by-product of their speed because they don’t have to reach and hook.”
The delay to power up the broadcast lights at the ACC took 12 minutes and three seconds, but with the first period completed in a lightning 31 minutes, the game was still finished in 21/2 hours ... Darcy Hordichuk wanted to tangle with opposite number Orr, but since he was getting a rare chance at double duty with Armstrong out, Orr stopped short of dropping the gloves ... Toronto-area native Stephen Weiss looked like he played for the Miami Dolphins when he came out for Tuesday morning’s skate with an extended mouthguard. He had at least one tooth knocked out by a puck during Saturday’s game against the Islanders, while a couple were loosened. “I might wear this thing for one minute tonight,” Weiss grumped about the discomfort of the helmet, but he played a strong game and assisted on Florida’s first goal ... Who says Leafs fans aren’t forgiving? Kerry Fraser, he of the infamous non-high stick ruling on Wayne Gretzky, signed copies of his book The Final Call in the lobby of the ACC before Tuesday’s game and lived to tell ... Fredrik Sjostrom collected his 100th NHL point on Tim Brent’s goal ... It was also Kessel’s 300th NHL game and he picked up his 103rd goal in the process.