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Maple Leafs' Kessel proclaims himself fit to play

by Joe Yerdon

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs head into their game Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames on an eight-game losing streak. One question they had was the health of their leading scorer, right wing Phil Kessel.

Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said Kessel, who bruised his foot against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, is available to play against the Flames.

"He says he's available to play," Carlyle said. "So basically it's been two days of treatment and he's telling us he's ready."

Kessel took a pass from left wing James van Riemsdyk off his foot against Detroit and played through the injury to finish the game. He has gone three games without a goal and has four points during the losing streak.

With the streak having gone as long as it has and the Maple Leafs currently on the outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, players said they're focused on turning the situation around.

"At this time of the year our focus is on tonight and playing against Calgary," Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf said. "We're not looking back because what's done is done. You have to find a way to regroup and refocus, and I feel that we've done that. We had a good practice [Monday] and our spirits are up, our morale is up and that's the way you have to conduct business. You've got to come back to work with the right attitude and you have to be focused on the task at hand, and that's winning against Calgary tonight."

The Maple Leafs held an optional morning skate. Goalie Jonathan Bernier will start.

The Flames are hoping to continue the Maple Leafs' losing streak and they understand how tough the situation is for them.

"It's not fun, for sure," Flames forward Mike Cammalleri said. "The players on the team, I can tell you for sure, feel it. It weighs on you, no doubt. That's part of what also makes it so special to play in a Canadian market -- when it goes the other way, there's no more rewarding feeling. That's the paradox of the whole situation, I guess."

Calgary will have forward Bryce Van Brabant making his NHL debut against Toronto after he signed with the team out of Quinnipiac University.

"It's not every day you get to play an NHL game," Van Brabant said. "I've been talking to coach [Bob Hartley] and they've been keeping me up to speed and teaching me what to do out there. The biggest thing he's kind of proclaimed was just -- you're going to make mistakes, don't worry about it too much, don't overthink it. Just go have some fun and enjoy it for what it is."

Van Brabant is the 10th player to make his NHL debut with the Flames this season.

"That's the road that we took," Hartley said. "There's no sense signing kids if our management, if our scouting staff feel that those guys are NHL potentials. The best way is to put them in game action. We spend the last two days trying to give him information. Right now it's sinking in. Tonight it's a great night for this young man."

Goalie Karri Ramo will start for the Flames.

Here are the projected lineups for the Flames and Maple Leafs:


Mike CammalleriMikael BacklundPaul Byron

Curtis GlencrossSean MonahanJoe Colborne

Jiri HudlerMatt StajanBrian McGrattan

Bryce Van BrabantLance BoumaKevin Westgarth

Mark GiordanoTJ Brodie

Kris RussellChris Butler

Chad BillinsTyler Wotherspoon

Karri Ramo

Joey MacDonald

Scratched: Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino

Injured: Markus Granlund (lower body), David Jones (shoulder), Ladislav Smid (lower body), Dennis Wideman (upper body)


James van RiemsdykTyler BozakPhil Kessel

Joffrey LupulNazem KadriNikolai Kulemin

Mason RaymondDave BollandDavid Clarkson

Jerry D'AmigoJay McClementTroy Bodie

Dion PhaneufCarl Gunnarsson

Jake GardinerCody Franson

Morgan RiellyTim Gleason

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: Paul Ranger, Colton Orr

Injured: None

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