TORONTO – The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens hooking up on a Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada is a special occasion for many – especially now that both organizations are prospering.
For a kid like Joe Colborne, who is trying to make his mark in the NHL, it is a bit of a dream come true.
For others, such as Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, it's just another day at the office.
"It's going to be very tough to have a pre-game nap today," said Colborne, who had his shares of ups and downs with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League this season before being recalled by the Maple Leafs on April 4. "There's such a buzz when you get to the rink; you can tell it's a big game. I'm ready to step into the rivalry and I know it's going to be a lot of fun."
The Canadiens, under new general manager Marc Bergevin, have been one of the NHL's biggest success stories this season. Through 40 games the Habs possess the fourth-best record in the league at 26-9-5 and sit second in the Eastern Conference behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins with 57 points. Toronto, meanwhile, appears poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and is fifth in the East at 22-13-5.
While the Maple Leafs are still without one of their best player, left wing Joffrey Lupul who is out with a suspected concussion, they got some good news that center Mikhail Grabovski is available for action. Carlyle wasn't sure if the Russian, who underwent a battery of tests in New York earlier in the week because of an infection, would dress, but did acknowledge Grabovski saves some of his best performances for his former team.
"The player is available and we will make out decision on tonight's lineup later this afternoon," Carlyle said. He added the results of the tests Grabovski took would not be available until Wednesday or Thursday.
Carlyle said he understands the fanfare that comes with a Montreal-Toronto matchup, but he said the team does its best not to get caught up in the extra hype.
"What we have tried to do is eliminate all the outside influences that take place," Carlyle said. "You can't ignore it, but you just try to focus on what you can control. Our preparation is paramount because we're a young team and we're learning how to prepare…how to push some of the things that normally would be front and center to the side. Believe me, there's as many things presented to me as the players; people looking for tickets to parking passes. Everybody thinks you have all this free time to concentrate on what their needs are."