Leafs banged up ahead of home-and-home series
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Nazem Kadri was not on the ice Wednesday morning at the Mastercard Centre. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - For a couple of ultimately meaningless exhibition games, a lot of players in the Maple Leafs dressing room want in for this weekend’s home-and-home series against the Detroit Red Wings.
That’s understandable when you look at the injury list. Two players who’ve been on the sidelines through the first six friendlies of camp, Matthew Lombardi and Mike Brown, hope to play in at least one game.
Tim Connolly, the $9.5-million US centre who hopes to be Phil Kessel’s set-up man, has played just two non-descript games and is now sidelined with an upper-body injury. That has put his participation in both games in doubt says coach Ron Wilson.
The Leafs also had two injury scares from Tuesday’s 5-3 win in Ottawa. Nazem Kadri, who had been promoted in the absence of Connolly, “tweaked” a knee and was sent for an MRI Wednesday. Wilson indicated it was mostly a precautionary exam, but guessed it could mean a couple of days off for the energetic Kadri, who is trying to protect a full-time role at centre or wing.
Centre Mikhail Grabovski spent part of the third period in the quiet room after a questionable hit to the upper region by Chris Neil. He did return and Neil, who was not penalized on the play, was grateful to be excused by NHL magistrate Brendan Shanahan on Wednesday.
“I saw the video, but I don’t remember what happened,” Grabovski said. “I hear my teammates say it was a dirty hit, but you play a lot of games and you see the same things.”
Connolly was not available to talk on Wednesday, two days after crashing into the boards during practice at the MasterCard Centre.
“He’s better today,” Wilson said. “It’s a minor thing, but I’m not sure if he’ll be ready to play on the weekend.”
“(The overall injury picture) forces me to take other looks, scramble our lines a little bit and see if there is chemistry with other people. I’m hoping to get Lombardi in at least one game and I should find that out (Thursday).”
Lombardi is in the final stages of coming back from a year-long concussion episode. The feisty Brown, meanwhile, continues to fight through complications from summer groin surgery.
“I have to play with pain in order to break up the scar tissue,” Brown explained. “It doesn’t feel good, but it’s what I have to do.”