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.
After a good Tuesday night, the Vancouver Canucks are having a lousy Wednesday morning.
The club has just announced that center Brandon Sutter and defenseman Alex Edler have been sent home from the club’s current two-game road swing, after suffering injuries in a win over Colorado last night.
Craig Oster, Sutter’s agent, told News 1130 his client has a broken jaw after taking a puck to the face. Per TSN, Edler is undergoing “imaging” on his foot following a blocked shot, but it’s believed he’ll be out the next 2-3 weeks.
The impact of these injuries could be profound.
Vancouver hasn’t been good this year but remains in the thick of the playoff chase, sitting just four points back of the Avs for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with three games in hand.
At the same time, the Canucks also have two potentially big trade chips at the deadline in pending UFAs Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata.
Will the Sutter and Edler injuries factor into Vancouver’s future plans?
You’d have to think so.
Edler is a staple on the back end, leading all Canuck blueliners in points (20) and TOI per game (24:27). Sutter, meanwhile, was supposed to be a key piece of the club this year but has had most of his season ravaged by injury — prior to the broken jaw, he missed 33 games following sports hernia surgery.
All told, Sutter has appeared in just 20 games this year.
His is also the second major facial injury suffered by a Canuck this season — Hamhuis only recently returned from a 21-game absence after taking a puck to the face in mid-December.
The Los Angeles Kings have placed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on waivers, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
A veteran of almost 800 NHL games, Ehrhoff has not fit well with Los Angeles after signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal in August. The 33-year-old has just 11 points in 40 games and is a team-worst minus-10. Though he had two assists in last night’s 9-2 win over the Bruins, he also took a careless tripping penalty in the first period that led to a Boston goal.
In a related story, the Kings are rumored to be looking for help on the back end. In fact, they were reportedly quite interested in Dustin Byfuglien, before he re-signed with the Jets.
According to Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider, 23-year-old defenseman Kevin Gravel is “on the verge of a recall” from AHL Ontario.
The Kings play Thursday in Brooklyn.
Nazem Kadri‘s throat-slashing gesture is under review by the NHL, according to TSN.ca.
The Maple Leafs forward made the gesture while sitting on Toronto’s bench last night in Calgary, moments after he was laid out by Flames captain Mark Giordano.
The NHL first started cracking down on the throat-slashing gesture in 2000. Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.
After Tuesday’s loss to the Jets — the Blues’ fourth in their last six games — head coach Ken Hitchcock said his club has “got to play harder than this” and “got to compete at a lot higher level than this.”
He then added “it’s up to us to fix it.”
Well, help is on the way.
On Wednesday, the Blues activated forward Jaden Schwartz off injured reserve, after he missed the last 49 contests with a fractured left ankle. Schwartz is expected to be in the lineup on Friday when the Blues take on the Panthers in Florida.
The 23-year-old should provide an immediate boost to the lineup. Schwartz had four points in seven games before getting hurt, and that came on the heels of a successful ’14-15 campaign in which he posted career highs in goals (28) and points (63).
The Blues’ first-round pick in 2010 (14th overall), Schwartz is a 17-18 TOI per night guy, so he’ll be a big presence almost immediately. His return also inches the team back to full health, though there’s still a ways to go — Alex Pietrangelo and Jake Allen are still week-to-week with knee and lower-body injuries, while Steve Ott is out until late February following hamstrings surgery.
Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made