The Toronto Maple Leafs are back.
Whether they are all the way back will have to wait until the spring.
Tonight the Leafs play the Coca-Cola Zero Fans First game, the season opener for the pre-season, if that makes sense. Game time against the Boston Bruins is 7 p.m. You can chat with me about the game on Thursday at 2 p.m. in a live chat
The Maple Leafs, along with Coca-Cola Zero , are picking up the tab for each and every one of the nearly 20,000 tickets handed out for tonight’s preseason opener. The paying customers will be no such thing but they, along with millions of others, will begin to judge the team’s progress tonight.
They will see a team returning five players from the opening day roster last year, Vesa Toskala, Jeff Finger
, Ian White, John Mitchell and Nikolai Kulemin
The defence will be comprised of Finger, Garnet Exelby, Ian White, Phil Oreskovic, Jonas Frogren and Francois Beauchemin.
Rookie Nazem Kadri
, chosen seventh in this year’s entry draft, will draw the most attention but intriguing rookies Tyler Bozak
, Viktor Stalberg and Christian Hanson will hit the ice.
So will heavyweights Andre Deveaux, Phil Oreskovic, Jay Rosehill
and Colton Orr.
“We told the guys we would play them in exhibition games,” said Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson. “I know you guys are all excited that there will be fights. If they sit in the penalty box they won’t be able to show me what they can do.”
Tonight’s game will bring the return of goalie Vesa Toskala who shut down his season for groin and hip surgery last March.
“He will split tonight with Joey MacDonald and depending how well he feels, he will probably play on Saturday,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he will keep his line of Stalberg, Kadri and Hanson.
“I expect there will be guys who are super nervous today” Wilson said.
“I’m a little nervous, but I think after a couple of shifts those nerves will come out,” said Kadri.
The newcomers are just as ready to go.
“The first game is always special, especially here in Toronto” said newly-acquired defenceman Francois Beauchemin.