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Kadri Aims To Cement Spot In Lineup

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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It is there, Brian Burke says it is, and Nazem Kadri intends to go get it.

Tonight against the Ottawa Senators, in the Leafs first preseason game, he gets his chance.

When Burke identified a wide-open race for the left wing job on the third line and included Kadri, Joe Colborne Matt Frattin as contenders, he indentified the only real competition on the top three lines. All three will play tonight.

He also nicely framed a competition Kadri is confident he can win.

“Hands down this is the best I have been feeling going into a training camp,” he said.

Kadri bulked up and slimmed down simultaneously over the summer. He went into last season at 190 pounds. This year, he will start at 185 but off-season workouts have helped him gain more lean weight.

“Even in the informal skates I felt a lot quicker,” he said.

Kadri PVRd most of his games and spent hours over the summer dissecting his performance. He found a technical soft-spot he has worked steadily to correct.

“I really wanted to make my first two or three steps more explosive just to gain that extra bit of separation from the defenceman,” he said. “I think I will be better because of that.”

Kadri performed solidly for the Leafs late last season. He gained six points in his last 10 games and usually got 15 minutes of ice time per evening.

He has rung up 41 points in 44 games with the Marlies.

His third year as a candidate for the big club has left Kadri confident that he knows what it takes to stick.

“I know what I can expect, a great competition and I are looking forward to that.”

Kadri will work with Tyler Bozak and Colby Armstrong.

Mikael Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke McArthur will be reunited tonight.

Colborne will centre Frattin and Joey Crabb.

Colton Orr might get his first game since last January when he was knocked out by a concussion.

Look to see Carl Gunnarsson in the lineup. Gunnarsson is in a battle for the sixth spot on the blueline.

“Last year, he didn’t play well on training camp,” said Coach Ron Wilson.

“He tried to put on some weight it seemed to slow him down,” he said. “I don’t see that now. He has been good in scrimmages and practices in first two games. From a coach’s point of view he doesn’t make mistakes, he is difficult to beat one on one and he is good down low.”

Jonas Gustavsson will get the start and Wilson said he senses the Swedish goalie is ready to rebound after up and down times during his first two years in the NHL.

“This is a tough town to play goal in if you let a bad goal in. He was prone to that last season. His confidence seems back. We are going to support that best we can.”

Ben Scrivens will also play tonight.

Notes: Tonight’s game will feature a second line to indicate if the puck is completely past the red goal line and thinner mesh for the overhead camera. Phillipe Dupuis is grateful for his social convener, John-Michael Liles. The veteran Liles introduced Dupuis to his Colorado Avalanche teammates when the two were in Denver and has done the same thing as both players have become Leafs. “He’s like my big brother,” said Dupuis. “He is always making sure I know everyone.” As a newcomer, Liles is one player left unexcited by the fact the Leafs will play eight pre-season games instead of nine. “In this situation you are looking to develop chemistry and the more often I can work with our team before the season starts the better.”

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