With the Maple Leafs scheduled to have an off-day upon arriving in Los Angeles Saturday and slated for a light practice Sunday, the time off should serve injured Maple Leaf Colby Armstrong well.
Armstrong absorbed a sucker punch from Atlanta pugilist Ben Eager during Toronto’s 9-3 humiliation of the Thrashers on Friday night at Philips Arena, causing his eye to immediately swell shut. Coach Ron Wilson took him out of the game for precautionary reasons.
Armstrong was wearing a bulky wad of bandages over his right eye after the victory, quipping that it “feels better than it looks.”
Reached on Saturday, Leafs general manager Brian Burke was cautiously optimistic that Armstrong would make a full recovery.
“(Armstrong) should be OK,” Burke told the Toronto Sun via email. “(But we) don’t know just yet.”
Eager received a four-game suspension on Saturday for his cheap shot on Armstrong.
“We believe in the process,” Burke said of the ruling. “And we do not comment before, during or after hearings that do not involve one of our players.”
It indeed was a sign of the times.
During a training camp exercise in September, players were asked to pen what their goals were, what their on-ice shortcomings were, and would they potentially good accomplish.
In the case of Mikhail Grabovski, the answer might surprise you.
Along with scoring goals (what forward wouldn’t list that?), Grabovski said he wanted to be a team leader. That seemed out of character for a guy who, just two seasons earlier, had engaged in a pair of practice scraps with teammate Jason Blake and, last winter, ran amok with the law during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Yet, through the first half of the season, it has been a new more mature Grabovski that has been on display.
He admits the recent birth of his daughter has played a role. At the same time, he had a desire to be a better player.
Consider it done.
“There was a lot of things I wanted and I wanted to do things that would help the team win,” said Grabovski, who scored a pair of goals against the Thrashers.
“Every player wants to score goals, but I think they know that if they do score, it’s good for the team, and that’s what I wanted.”
Having scored 12 times in the past 14 games, he seems to be practising what he is preaching.
“Yeah, he’s scoring, but he’s also doing things away from the puck that we asked him to,” assistant coach Tim Hunter said.
“We told him that, as a centre, he has to go to the puck when the other team has it. That creates turnovers. The centre is the guy that makes things happen. You can’t just shy away.”
Grabovski isn’t. At least not any more.
“I need to do something more than score goals to help out, so if I play better defence, that is better for me and better for the team,” Grabovski said.
It’s a recipe that could very well earn him a spot in the all-star game later this month.