Nazem Kadri has improved his five-on-five play this season.
He isn’t putting up the points like had in previous seasons and that is ok with him. Sometimes it takes the words of an influential member of the Leafs front office to change your prospective on things.
“I had a talk with Shanny about becoming a more complete player and not just being a one dimensional player,” said Kadri following Friday’s practice. “That’s something he wants me to do and something I want for myself. I wanted it all along. I know my offence is going to be there and I know those goals are going to come, those assists are going to come, it’s a matter of putting everything else together and still playing the right way, even when you aren’t getting the puck luck.”
Kadri met with Leafs President Brendan Shanahan approximately 10 games into the season. Since that time, Kadri has shown his ability to contribute in other areas.
Faceoff proficiency for Kadri has improved. This season he has won 49.8% of draws compared to 45.2% and 44.2% in the ’13-’14 and ’12-’13 seasons. At times, Kadri has been physical.
Those are just a few takes from Kadri’s meeting with Shanahan.
"I respect him a lot and I know he appreciates the way I play, I play hard., You know I’m not the biggest guy but I’ll still do whatever I can to get in the way or make a contribution. I’m willing to sacrifice individual stats for team success. That’s just something I’ve been willing to do but I just want to win more than anything."
All 10 of Kadri’s points have come at even strength this season. During the Leafs 4-3 OT loss to Pittsburgh, Kadri was taken off the power-play unit. He did play over 18 minutes in even strength.
On fire earlier in the month, the Leafs power-play has stalled to just one goal in the last six games. The Leafs appear insistent on igniting the scoring in that department. Kadri will be a part of that solution, but this time playing on the point as the fourth forward on the ice.
“The mindset with this is we possibly have our top five most offensive players on the ice,” said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. “In a lot of situations, you only get the one opportunity with the faceoff, you might get the minute and 10 or 30 and the second unit only gets 30 seconds of it.”
The first power-play unit now consists of Kadri, Dion Phaneuf, James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel
Kadri has limited experience playing on the point on the power-play. With the London Knights, Kadri played on the strong-side of the point. At Friday’s practice, Kadri was on the weak side, which has more room for error, making it a pressure-packed position should the puck get past him.
"There's going to be a learning curve for Naz over there,” said Kessel. "He's a skilled player and he'll make great plays for us.”
With Joffrey Lupul having a game under his belt since his hand injury, Lupul’s minutes are expected to improve as he swaps places with Daniel Winnik.
“The first game back I didn’t play the way I would have liked” said Lupul. “I was a little bit hesitant at first but I feel good. I guess I was getting the feel a little bit in the Pittsburgh game, I would have liked to play better but I’ll play better tomorrow night."
Kozun to Marlies
Brandon Kozun is on the mend from a high ankle sprain and has been sent to the Marlies on a conditioning stint.
“We have up to five games to leave him there” said Carlyle.
The Leafs will assess Kozun after three of those games. He would require waivers if the Leafs want to keep him there beyond two weeks.