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Players Excited For Debut Tonight

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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The Maple Leafs ran an activity for schoolchildren that drew several thousand kids to Air Canada Centre and to put things in perspective, the whole slew of them stood for the national anthem.

This was prior to today’s game day skate. The players dutifully took off their helmets and stood along the blue line.

“This is all for you,” Alexei Ponikarovsky told Dion Phaneuf.

Welcome to Toronto and all that entails. That includes thousands of kids screaming through your pre-game skate.

“That was unbelievable,” said Phaneuf. “Just walking around downtown, you can feel it in the city that they love their hockey.  You go out there and have them cheer for you and it’s only a morning skate. I’m looking forward to this.”

It is hoped that landing Phaneuf, a 10-goal scorer in Calgary and owner of one of the most feared shots in hockey, should pay immediate dividends on the power play.

“I think we’ve been missing a point shot that we can establish early in the power play to back everybody off” said Ponikarovsky “Then you can create other things down low. With his shot, I just have to be down low, screening the goalie.”

The Leafs play the New Jersey Devils and their all-world goalie Martin Brodeur and unveil not just Phaneuf but new goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguerre as well as utility forward Fredrik Sjostrom. All three news players get their start tonight.

“I am really excited,” said Giguerre. “I think it’s going to be a fun night, a bit of a learning curve to what everybody does. It’s hockey and hockey is the same game everywhere.”

The Leafs, meanwhile, are waiting to find out whether Mike Komisarek’s season is over because of a shoulder injury.  Komisarek, a member of the U.S. Olympic team, will undergo a stress test on Wednesday that will determine the future of his season.

“I’m itching to get out there, “said Komisarek. “I have one more test tomorrow and I’ll be sure to be well-rested. I want to do as well as I can.“

There is no real word on the line combination but the Leafs will use callup Christian Hanson at centre after changing him over from the wing three weeks ago. Phaneuf will probably be paired with Tomas Kaberle and you can count on that combination on the power play.

The trades of Ian White, Matt Stajan, Jason Blake Nik Hagman and Vesa Toskala leave plenty of room for young players as well as Swedish veteran Rickard Wallin. Expect to see more of John Mitchell, rescued from inactivity.
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