The door has swung open, if only a bit, for two Maple Leaf wannabees.
An injury to Nazem Kadri
’s left knee appears to be minor but for a few days at least, his departure will help Matt Frattin
’s bid to earn a third-line left wing spot with Colby Armstrong
and Tyler Bozak
missed Wednesday’s session with a minor upper body injury while Matt Lombardi continued his return from a concussion. Leafs coach Ron Wilson does not know whether Connolly, who hurt himself falling at practice on Monday, will play in one of the two remaining preseason games.
Wilson is hopeful of getting Lombardi into a game for the first time in 11 months when the Leafs play Detroit, either in Motown Friday or in Toronto’s s preseason finale Saturday.
Tuesday Lombardi spent a session after practice wrestling with behemoth defenceman Mike Komisarek
along the boards. So far, so good.
Said Lombardi of his cage match with Komisarek: “I need to get a big guy like him to throw me around a little bit. I felt like a little bug against him but it was definitely what I need.”
Now all Lombardi requires is medical clearance. He worked out on the fourth line at practice but his speed and experience would eventually allow him to push Connolly for a spot on the line with Phil Kessel
and Joffrey Lupul
Kadri hurt his knee when he slid into the boards in Ottawa during the third period of Tuesday’s Leafs’ win.
“It was kind of a freak accident,” Kadri said. “I was on the backcheck and ended up running into the end boards. I kind of caught my left knee a little bit funny but I don’t think it’s something I am going to be too worried about.
“As far as I know it’s just a strain,” Kadri said. “It really feels that way even though it’s still pretty tight. I am sure over the next couple of days it will loosen up and I can get back on the ice.”
“He will get an MRI today to see if it’s a couple of days or two weeks, somewhere in that neighborhood,” said Wilson.
While Kadri’s claim for a spot on the big league roster has hit a speedbump, the 23-year-old Frattin has impressed with a polished game. He has scored twice in the preseason.
“He is as close as any new guy in any organization to being ready to play,” Wilson said. “Physically he is ready. Emotionally he is ready. What we watch is if he is mentally ready. Does he have enough experience? Does he understand dangerous situations? He’s got some things; he can block shots, finish checks. We are trying to figure out if he can kill penalties too.”
“He has more all around qualities and Nazzie probably has more high-end offensive skills in terms of making plays,” Wilson said. “I think Frattin is probably going to be a better goal-scorer than Nazem is.”
The two bring distinct styles. Kadri is much flashier. He wants to do a host of things when he gets the puck. Frattin, a stolid straight ahead skater who led Division I goalscorers last year just wants to shoot.
Wilson also hopes to get Mike Brown
, just back from off-season groin surgery into a game against the Red Wings.