October 5, 2011
Komisarek stuffs his struggles
By ROB LONGLEY, TERRY KOSHAN and LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The next time a player talks about not hearing the fans and feeling the pressure of playing in Toronto, consider what Mike Komisarek has gone through as a Maple Leaf.
In two full seasons here, he has battled injury and some struggles in his game.
But as Year 3 in the blue and white approaches, the big defenceman believes he has put his struggles behind him.
“You are quickly reminded in this city of your past faults and past mistakes and sometimes that stuff can weigh you down,” Komisarek said.
“But I see this year as an opportunity to get back that feeling of when you are a kid. I can ‘t wait to get down here and play games.”
Komisarek will begin the season beside rookie Jake Gardiner, and loves what he sees in the youngster.
“He’s mature beyond his years,” Komisarek said. “You just love to see a guy like that around here.
40 FOR PHIL?
Leafs sniper Phil Kessel figures he has 40 goals in him at some point in his career, but will it be this season?
“I don’t set a number, but hopefully I can improve on last year,” said Kessel, who had 32 last season. “I hopefully can get to the 40 mark some time.”
If Matthew Lombardi comes back as a fourth-liner, so be it. With his career in jeopardy for so many months, any role will suit him.
“I just want to get in there and contribute,” said Lombardi, who is expected to centre a plumbers’ union of Mike Brown and Jay Rosehill on Thursday.
He played one pre-season game after his methodical return from the severe concussion he suffered last October.
“I have to keep pushing myself and get better every day. This is the perfect (motivation), a divisional game, a rival and the opportunity to set the tone the rest of the year.”
Brown shaved off his Fu Manchu moustache on Tuesday night, explaining that a change of luck was in order.
“Too many injuries,” Brown said with a smile on Wednesday. “Had to change something up. I took that puck off the face in practice (on Tuesday) and it was looking all crooked anyway.”
Without the facial hair, Brown looks likes just one of the guys. Don’t expect it to be gone for good. Brown said it takes two to three weeks for it to grow back in, and fans could see it again. Of course, if he scores in the regular-season opener on Thursday, we might never see it again.
A SPECIAL SEASON?
Beginning Thursday, the team’s off-season commitment to improved special teams will be tested. Though slightly better by the end of 2010-11, years of penalty killing and power play woes combined to slow the Leafs from moving up the standings and helped lead to a change in assistant coaches.
“We’ve made some personnel changes and addressed some issues,” Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said of three hard weeks of practice.
“We have a excellent power-play point man in John-Michael Liles. I think Jake Gardiner will help there, too. Up front, with Lombardi being healthy, bringing in David Steckel and some other guys like Philippe Dupuis (it’s better), but we have to work on this all the time, every day. Other teams see what you’re doing on the power play and we have to have different wrinkles to negate ther advance scouting.”
Nazem Kadri said there has been progress with his MCL injury and he is hopeful of resuming skating next week.