TORONTO - It was a surreal sight watching Tomas Kaberle stride out of the visitor’s locker room on Saturday morning as he made his way to the Air Canada Centre ice.
For 12 seasons and 878 games, Kaberle donned the blue and white, racking up enough points to rank 11th on the Maple Leafs’ all-time list. But there he was, heading down the hall in the black and gold of the Boston Bruins.
It was the first time Kaberle has been back to the ACC since the Leafs shipped him off to their Northeast Division rival on Feb. 18 for prospect Joe Colborne, the Bruins’ 2011 first round draft pick, and a conditional 2012 second round pick.
Kaberle, who joined his teammates for a morning skate, said he still has mixed emotions about the trade and being back at the ACC playing for another team.
“I’ve got mixed feelings still about what it’s going to be like tonight, but I’m an enemy now and I have to do my best for Boston and hopefully we get two points tonight,” Kaberle told the throng of reporters surrounding him at his stall after the skate.
Kaberle can help put another nail in the Leafs’ season. With just 10 games remaining, time is quickly running out for 11th-place Toronto (31-31-10) as it tries to claw its way into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re just focusing on the game, taking it a game at a time,” said Kaberle, who had 520 points as a Maple Leaf. “We can’t worry about what they do, we just want to win the hockey game and play smart. We’ve got 12 games left and want to play good hockey before the playoffs start.”
Kaberle hasn’t exactly been lighting it up since heading to the Bruins, having registered only three assists in 12 games, but Boston coach Claude Julien said he is pleased with the puck-moving defenceman’s performance so far.
“We feel our transition game has improved (since Kaberle’s arrival),” Julien said. “We also feel he’s made people around him a lot better. The one thing about Tomas, this is his first time moving to another team. He’s trying to fit in and he wants to fit in well, and we’re going to give him time to do that. When you look at him and when you see how he plays, he really wants to be part of the solution. I like his attitude and like his approach and I have a feeling he’ll only get better as we move on here.
“What we wanted to get from this hockey club was better from the back end and he certainly has provided us with that.”
The Maple Leafs, who didn’t skate or talk to media in the morning, deciding instead to focus on their contest against Boston, will have to make the most of their opportunity against a Bruins’ team that has struggled of late. Boston (39-21-10), tops in its division, has lost five of six, while Toronto has only won twice in its past seven games.