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Everyone Has A Role To Play

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs are in Philadelphia to play the Flyers tonight.

Ben Scrivens and Jonas Gustavsson should split the netminding. Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek, Carl Gunnarsson, Jake Gardiner, Juraj Mikus and Korbinian Holzer will be on the blue line.

Set  to go are forwards Colby Armstrong, Philippe DupuisJoe Colborne, Luca Caputi, Jay Rosehill, Matt Frattin, Nikolai Kulemin, Tyler Bozak, Darryl Boyce, Greg McKegg and Jerry D’Amigo.

Great. Let’s talk about roles.

You can make a good argument the number skill players you have carrying out less glamorous jobs will determine your season.

Start with Tyler Bozak. With no other candidate for a number one centre in sight, the Leafs gave Bozak the job last season in what amounted to his first full NHL campaign. He struggled, ended the season minus -29 and by his own admission lost his confidence.

“There were a lot of ups and downs. It’s was my first full season in the NHL,” he said. “It was tough at times but I got a lot out of it I hope to use. “

The 25-year-old Bozak, playing between veteran Colby Armstrong and the explosive Nazem Kadri scored twice in the team’s preseason opening win over Ottawa. Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson has often said he felt Bozak’s game improved when taken away from the responsibility of feeding Kessel and that Bozak had the makings of a very good third-line, defensively-orientated centre.

Interestingly, scoring two preseason goals has garnered attention to Bozak as a defensive player.  Bumping down two lines sits well with him.

“I really don’t feel too much different. I’m just trying to make the most of my abilities,” he said. “You just have to play where you are put and make the most of it that you can.”

Matt Lombardi sits a few locker stalls down from Bozak. He is skating hard and moving quickly toward a return to the lineup after a year’s absence. When he comes back, Lombardi feted as a first-line centre a year ago in Nashville will find himself on the third line with Bozak and that’s only if Nazem Kadri shows any sign of backtracking.

Veteran Joffey Lupul fully recovered from a back injury and a corresponding infection finds himself on the first line, but there is a catch.

Phil Kessel is no defensive player. Tim Connolly is at least defensively aware and fast enough to make a difference. But the spade work, initiating contact on the forecheck, driving his body against the boards to keep a puck in, finding abuse in front of the net, falls to him. 

Lupul has scored 20 goals three times in the NHL. He was the seventh overall pick in 2002. He has a pedigree.

“There is some dirty work but that’s fine. Everyone has their role on a particular line,” he said. “I’m happy to do that. I know I will get a lot of opportunities.  It beats where I was a year ago.”

For inspiration to perform his role tough guy Jay Rosehill need only look to his dad and brother back in Olds, Alberta.

Dan Rosehill and his son Ty are livestock auctioneers. Ty was the rookie of the year this summer at an auctioneering competition at the Calgary Stampede, the NHL of rodeos.

“It’s good to see my brother doing well,” he said. “We will be driving down the road and he will be running through it. It’s pretty funny.”

If you think about it, tough guys and auctioneers have a lot in common. Both have to have a keen understanding of human nature and imminent risk. They both need to be able to think on their feet. Both have to be brutally realistic in assessing their jobs and it doesn’t hurt to be a little glib as well.

“I don’t have to run my mouth quite as fast as the other people in the family,” he said.

“If you wanted to do it well, you’d have to make a lot of cuss words into one.”

Notes: Tonight’s start will be the third in a row for Joe Colborne who has struggled in his first two outings. Players going back to junior worthy of special attention:  Sondra Olden (Erie), Stuart Percy (Mississauga) and David Brolle (Soo)…After three games in as many nights, the Leafs play a home and home against the Buffalo Sabres,  Friday in Toronto and Saturday in Buffalo.
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