Tomas Kaberle’s return to Toronto to be an awkward one

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When Toronto traded Tomas Kaberle to Boston for Joe Colborne, a first round pick, and a conditional pick all future matchups between the Bruins and Leafs were circled on the calendar by fans of both teams. Leafs fans had tonight picked out in particular because it would be Kaberle’s first game back in Toronto. What many Leafs fans may not have thought at the time was that the Leafs would be hanging onto the possibility of making the playoffs with just ten games left to play.

With Kaberle making his return to Toronto tonight and the Leafs just four points behind Buffalo for the eighth spot in the East, tonight’s game is huge for the Leafs and their chance at the playoffs. For Tomas Kaberle, his first time back in front of the fans that cheered him on his entire career (for the most part anyhow) brings a lot of mixed emotions for him as CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty shares.

“Its mixed feelings,” said Kaberle. “Being here for so long and being in that position that [the Leafs] are in right now is difficult. Obviously everybody has done it before and been traded, so hopefully it’s going to be a fit [in Boston].

“Tonight I’ll do my best for Boston and hopefully we’ll get the two points,” said Kaberle. “We’re just focusing on the game, and not looking at the long run of what we do or what [Toronto] will do. We just want to win a hockey game and play smart. We have 12 games left and we want to play a good hockey going into the playoffs.”

Claude Julien understood that returning to Toronto would be a big deal for a lifelong Leafs player like Kaberle, and also revealed that the B’s are beginning to see some of the defensemen’s personality behind the scenes.

“I think he’s excited to be back here. I haven’t heard him say anything bad about the organization. He was treated well by Toronto, has a lot of respect for the organization and I think he’s excited,” said Julien. “We feel our transition game has improved [with Kaberle] and we feel like he’s made the players around him better. The one thing about Tomas is that he spent close to a dozen years [in Toronto] and it’s his first time with another organization. He’s trying to fit in. He wants to fit in, and we’re going to give him time to do that.

“When you see him playing you can tell that he wants to be part of the solution. I like his attitude and I like his approach. I have a feeling that he’ll only get better as we move on here.”

The fact that Kaberle hasn’t done so hot since joining Boston could be wearing on his mind (just three assists and a +5 rating in 12 games with Boston) but the motivation of playing in front of the old fans with the added juice of potentially being able to deliver the playoff-dream-killing shot to the Leafs has to serve as motivation.

Working against the Bruins is how well the Leafs played against them the last time they faced off in Boston. Phil Kessel scored twice while Mikhail Grabovski scored the game winner with just over a minute to play. If those two can bring the same kind of intensity again while James Reimer stands tall in goal, Leafs hopes live strong for another day. If not, the sadness that sweeps over Toronto seeing one of their favorites go on to help them deliver the punch to the gut will make it sting a little more.

Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Former NHL agent Stacey McAlpine charged in fraud case

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Former NHL agent Stacey McAlpine has been charged with fraud in a case involving former Ottawa Senators players Dany Heatley and Chris Phillips.

Winnipeg police said Wednesday that the 54-year-old McAlpine bilked Heatley and Phillips out of $12 million between January 2004 and June 2011. McAlpine is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000, two counts of theft over $5,000 and laundering proceeds of crime.

Heatley and Phillips sued McAlpine and McAlpine’s parents, claiming money was being invested in unapproved real estate deals, including an Ottawa condominium. CTV Calgary has reported that Heatley was awarded more than $6 million by an Alberta court.

Rask hurt in Bruins practice; Spooner out 4-6 weeks

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Well, the good news regarding injuries and the Boston Bruins didn’t last very long.

Earlier this week, PHT noted that forwards Patrice Bergeron and David Backes are expected to return in the near future, possibly as soon as Thursday. That’s great, but Wednesday turned out to be lousy thanks to one injury scare and one sure-thing that’s a negative.

The biggest concern is that of Tuukka Rask, and it’s something that might not clear up for a while. Rask was helped off the ice during practice today after being “bowled over” by young forward Anders Bjork.

The Bruins might dodge a bullet there, which would be huge if their backup work in anyway resembles the woes of 2016-17.

While we don’t know the severity of Rask’s issues just yet, there’s flat-out bad news for Ryan Spooner.

The Bruins estimate Spooner’s window of recovery at four-to-six weeks for a (cringe) “right groin adductor tear,” which he suffered on Oct. 15. Adam McQuaid suffered an injury in that same contest, so that could go down as a costly date for a Bruins team that has been fairly described as top-heavy.

Spooner, 25, was off to a slow start so far this season. He didn’t score a goal and managed one assist in five games, averaging 13:17 TOI per game. Even during that time, he was deployed in a very protected way, so the B’s can’t really claim that this is more than a body blow.

Even so, the Bruins might sport a patchwork lineup if Bergeron and/or Backes can’t play on Thursday. They’ll likely chalk it up as a win if Rask avoids anything significant, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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