1. Mixing and matching
With centres Tim Connolly and Nazem Kadri out, there will be a chance for a few Leafs to show their ability to play two positions.
“During the year, things like this are going to happen because of injuries,” said Tyler Bozak, who finds himself back with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul because of Connolly’s knee injury. “Players will move to different spots. You have to be reday at all times.”
Bozak will not play in Friday’s opener. The good news is that Matthew Lombardi and Mike Brown are expected to make their pre-season debuts sometime during the weekend. For Lombardi, it would be the end of a year-long recovery from a concussion.
2. Ex-Leaf wing ding
At some point in the series, the Wings will be employ ex-Leaf Ian White, who was brought in to replace the retired Brian Rafalski.
And Fabian Brunnstrom, who couldn’t find success with the Marlies, let alone the Leafs, is battling it out for the last forward position. His chance came when Jan Mursak fractured an ankle. Brunnstrom, who scored twice on Tuesday against Chicago, is trying to beat out veteran Ryan Johnson.
Defenceman Garnet Exelby and goalie Joey MacDonald were also in the hunt earlier in camp.
3. Define the blueline
Brian Burke and Ron Wilson insist they want Mike Komisarek in a starting six role, leaving Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson to show something extra in the final two games.
The Leafs already have a good idea of rookie Jake Gardiner’s strengths, it’s just a question of whether they can afford him the ice time to develop as an all-around defenceman. Aulie has not started this camp as strongly as he finished last season.
Detroit is more settled, but still working on its third pairing. It’s between Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Mike Commodore at present, as they wait for the high-risk prospect Brendan Smith to settle his game down.
4. That special feeling
Toronto spent most of this week puttering around the special teams’ workshop amid some promising developments in the win over Ottawa.
The Leafs look particularly sharp in moving the puck with the extra man, but the proof will be whether they get shots through in real games, go hard to the net, or at least stay in the slot to absorb punishment, set up screens and dig for rebounds.
Meanwhile, expect Wings’ warhorses such as Tomas Holmstrom to test the Leaf penalty killers.
5. Net results
James Reimer will only play three times between this weekend and Oct. 15, so he’ll want to go into the first part of the break prior to the regular season on a strong note.
That chance will come Saturday at the Air Canada Centre, while Jonas Gustavsson plays Friday at Joe Louis Arena.
After saying he hoped to get all three goalies in action this week, Wilson is giving the Monster a chance to put the promising Ben Scrivens in his rearview mirror for the present.