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Another challenge facing Nazem Kadri

by David Alter / Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s been a rough week for the Leafs' talented centre.

It started on March 8th when Kadri showed up to practice 20 minutes late. A team-imposed three-game suspension followed.

He returned to the lineup this past Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks. But the following game yielded more discipline for Kadri — a four-game suspension for a hit to the head on Edmonton Oilers forward Matt Fraser.

“There’s not much I can do, I mean I felt I did everything I did what I could (to avoid the hit) you never want to see stuff like that happen,” said Kadri following the team’s Wednesday practice. “I hope he is alright and he gets back to 100%. I think it was pretty obvious that I felt pretty bad about it after the situation.”

Kadri will be eligible to return to the lineup on March 28th when the Leafs host the Ottawa Senators. When that day arrives, Kadri will have been out of the lineup for seven of the Leafs last nine games.

“I expect him to be in exceptional shape when he gets back out and he’ll have to work his backside off and be ready,” said Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek. “(He’ll) be around the team, act like a pro and be a leader to the guys and show up every day. That’s all he can do.”

It’s another experience that will test Kadri’s ability to mature. While it appeared as though there wasn’t any ill intent, he’s still responsible for his actions on the ice.

What made matters worse is the history, even though it’s not suspension heavy.

On Nov. 14, 2013, Kadri was suspended three games after a hit on Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom. It was a little over 16 months ago. The Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for an 18-month probationary period where if a player causes another infraction, they will be judged as a repeat offender.

It’s been 16 months and two days since Kadri’s last suspension, and that weighed into the decision to suspended Kadri four games.

“It’s obviously hard to deal with,” said Kadri. “I’m not going to sit here and whine about it. I’m going to come back to work and be professional, no matter if I’m on the sidelines, on the ice or in the dressing room.”

With Peter Holland injured and Kadri unavailable, Horachek has indicated the Leafs will likely call up Sam Carrick from the Marlies to fill the void the team has at centre.

In the meantime, it’s another true test of Kadri’s character. Will he come out of this the way the team is hoping he will?

On March 29th, we’ll find out. And he’ll have seven games left on the calendar to show what he’s learned.

“Just create good habits going into next year,” Kadri said. “Play with a positive mentality and a positive attitude, play with energy.”

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