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Kadri restored to top line in return to Maple Leafs

by Joe Yerdon

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs will have Nazem Kadri back in their lineup Thursday against the Nashville Predators.

After serving a three-game suspension for an illegal hit on Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, Kadri will play on the top line with James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel.

"It's a little bit tough when guys keep going down. Lines are always changing," Kadri said. "It's not like you can play with the same guys consistently over a few weeks. It seems like we're together for a couple of games, something happens and you've got to mix it up."

In 18 games Kadri has five goals and 14 points, putting him fifth on the team. He joins the team's top two scorers on the first line.

"Their strength is really their rush transition game," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "That's where they are dynamic. Strong power play. Team speed, I think, caught us off-guard a little bit. They've got a quick team. We've got to control a couple aspects of their game and obviously manage the puck is going to be a real big one."

The Maple Leafs and Predators faced each other earlier this season, a 4-0 Maple Leafs win in Nashville. Jonathan Bernier stopped 36 shots to earn the shutout.

This time around, the Predators have won two games in a row, beating the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.

"They're a pressure team and they shut down the middle of the ice," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "They've got a team that has had a workman-like attitude for an extended period of time, it's 15 years. They established that there's a way to play and it's the Nashville Predator way and they don't waver from that."

Trotz said forward Eric Nystrom would not play against the Maple Leafs but could return Saturday.

Bernier will start in goal for the Maple Leafs and rookie Marek Mazanec will start for the Predators. Bernier has an 8-2-0 career record against the Predators with two shutouts. Mazanec is making his sixth career start and first in Toronto.

Here's how the lineups project:


James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Trevor Smith - David Clarkson

Mason Raymond - Peter Holland - Nikolai Kulemin

Jay McClement - Jerred Smithson - Colton Orr

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf

Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Morgan Rielly - Paul Ranger

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: Mark Fraser, Frazer McLaren

Injured: Tyler Bozak (hamstring), Dave Bolland (ankle)


Patric Hornqvist - Mike Fisher - Colin Wilson

Viktor Stalberg - David Legwand - Gabriel Bourque

Craig Smith - Matt Cullen - Nick Spaling

Rich Clune - Paul Gaustad - Matt Hendricks

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Seth Jones - Kevin Klein

Victor Bartley - Ryan Ellis

Marek Mazanec

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Filip Forsberg, Mattias Ekholm

Injured: Eric Nystrom (upper body)

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