TORONTO - The Maple Leafs will debut another big body for their final regular season lineup on Saturday against Montreal, when Joe Colborne steps between Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel.
Listed at 6-foot-5, though not yet filling out that frame, the Calgary-born centre was a top prospect acquired in the Tomas Kaberle trade with Boston. In another sign the Leafs are becoming the behemoth team that general manager Brian Burke envisioned, Colborne’s presence at the MasterCard Centre on Friday gave the Leafs a solid wall of nine players in excess of six feet on one side of the dressing room at their practice facility.
Colborne had 15 points in 19 games with the AHL Toronto Marlies when he received the call Thursday night, in part because centre Tim Brent suffered a forearm muscle tear on Tuesday against Washington.
“I’m pumped,” Colborne said, after a flurry of texts with family and friends. “I have a lot of people to thank for getting me here. I can’t wait for tomorrow. It doesn’t get much better than Hockey Night In Canada. My parents are coming, my sister is on her way back from Germany (where she plays basketball), so she’s excited and I have some family from Sarnia.”
The re-shuffling of lines with Brent’s injury will see Tyler Bozak, who shares University of Denver roots with Colborne, dropped from the second to the third line with Nazem Kadri and Joey Crabb.
Coach Ron Wilson hopes Colborne shows the same effort he put in during his farm stint.
“We’ve seen him a number of times and now he gets to play in a game of some significance,” Wilson said. “This will give us a way to evaluate him. I want to utilize him in a position where he can succeed (with scorers Lupul and Kessel). He could be a No. 1 centre some day, but he has a lot of work to do.”
Game 82 has little bearing on the NHL standings, with the Leafs out and Montreal likely to face the Boston Bruins in the first round. Montreal coach Jacques Martin confirmed Carey Price as his starter against James Reimer, who is looking for his 21st win in his rookie season with Toronto.
“Look how the Leafs have played,” Martin warned. “They made a strong push to get into the playoffs. We’ll have to bring our A game.”
Brent was named Friday as the Leaf nominee for the 2011 Bill Masterton Trophy, for ‘perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey’, by the Toronto chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The 27-year-old was not invited to the team’s pre-season golf outing in anticipation he’d be returned to the AHL Marlies, but worked his way up to become a key penalty killer and shot blocker.