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Matthews, Marner to show off ballet skills in 'The Nutcracker'

Maple Leafs forwards will be Cannon Dolls in Toronto production of holiday classic

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

TORONTO -- Mitchell Marner and Auston Matthews are hoping their on-ice chemistry with the Toronto Maple Leafs translates to the dance floor when they make their National Ballet of Canada debuts later this month.

"I'm a great dancer, I don't really know what I'm supposed to do out there but if it's dance, I'll break it down," Marner said. "Ballet probably isn't my specialty but maybe if we do something beforehand and learn a little bit off (the real dancers), it should be a good experience."

The forwards will appear as Cannon Dolls in the National Ballet of Canada's production of "The Nutcracker" on Dec. 19, a long-running Christmas tradition in Toronto.

Matthews admitted he's feeling some nerves preparing for his ballet debut.

Tweet from @nationalballet: Just Announced: @MapleLeafs Auston Matthews @AM34 and Mitchell Marner @Marner93 debut in #TheNutcrackerNBC as Cannon Dolls. See the full lineup >>

"I still don't know exactly what I'm supposed to do [for this role]," he said. "Of course Mitchy jumped at it and wanted to do it, and I was all for it too. It's pretty cool. It seems like a pretty big deal so I'm actually a little bit nervous for it but I think it will be fun, a pretty cool experience to get out of your comfort zone and try something different."

It will not be the first time Matthews appears on stage as he recalled being involved in school plays as a child, although that experience will be a little different than this one.

"They don't have us dancing in fifth grade," Matthews said. "We're just doing whatever. I could barely remember my lines. As far as ballet goes, zero (experience) but as far as other (dancing), I'm not terrible but I'm not exactly the most agile person when it comes to dancing. It will be interesting to see how I do there."

Former Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin performed as a Cannon Doll in 2007. The role involves dressing up in a colorful costume and appearing on stage about 30 minutes into the performance to shoot off a cannon.

Luckily for Marner and Matthews, the level of ballet expertise required is minimal. The biggest thing will be making sure they get to the right spot on stage at the right time, which is somewhat similar to what they are good at doing on the ice.

"We'll see, we'll see," Marner said. "I've seen a couple of photos about it. It looks like it'll be fun. A lot of people have texted me about it, it's a pretty cool thing. So hopefully it's something we'll get a lot of people to, it should be a lot of fun."

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