Matthew Lombardi, Dany Sabourin

Matthew Lombardi admits he’s nervous about making his Leafs debut tonight

The Toronto Maple Leafs go into the 2011-12 season with plenty of wild cards. From James Reimer backing up his breakout season to their unexpected top line keeping it together and plenty of health questions, the Leafs really could go either way.

Even with some rather big “ifs” floating around, Matthew Lombardi’s battle with post-concussion syndrome ranks as one of the most mysterious (and potentially difference-making). Lombardi scored a great contract to become a significant checking center for the Nashville Predators, but he instead just played in two games before a concussion ended his season in Tennessee.

In what some might consider a surprisingly quick recovery (or semi-recovery), Lombardi will make his preseason debut with the Leafs tonight. Who knows if he’ll really be able to stick with the team from a health and fitness standpoint off the bat, but the Maple Leafs aren’t easing him into the action. He’ll center a line with Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel during the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

While he practiced in full-contact drills for a week, this still seems like a surprisingly quick phase in his comeback. Lombardi knows that physical challenges will come sooner or later, too.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” Lombardi said on Saturday after a pre-game skate at the Air Canada Centre. “It’s going to be a weight lifted off my shoulders…to get this first game in and then move on and put everything behind me.

“I’m definitely going have some nerves going on but it’s good…It’s been so long. I’ve been so anxious the last couple of weeks. It’s finally here. Getting into a game and putting all the bad stuff behind me and moving forward…

“Mentally, I’ve been preparing to play. I had it in the back of my mind (since being cleared for full contact this week).”


“I’m confident I’m healed,” he said. “We play in a game that is physical. There’s always a risk even if I never had a concussion. That’s the way it is.”

Lombardi drew attention during his last season with the Phoenix Coyotes in 09-10, as he scored 19 goals and 53 points while exhibiting great speed and strong versatility. His concussion problems almost made him seem like a throwaway in the deal to bring Cody Franson to Toronto, but the shift-skating center could be significantly more valuable if he can stay healthy.

Of course, the Maple Leafs have plenty of “ifs” going into the season, but a healthy Lombardi could Toronto a more balanced team. We’ll see how things go for him during the next few days to see if that claim is valid, though.

Goalie nods: Dubnyk looks to turn tide for slumping Wild

WINNIPEG, MB - OCTOBER 25: Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild blocks a shot on goal in second period action in an NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on October 25, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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Devan Dubnyk will look to snap Minnesota’s three-game losing streak tonight and, at the same time, look to bump a slump of his own.

On a personal two-game losing streak — and having lost five of his last six — Dubnyk gets the call in Chicago when the Wild take on the ‘Hawks at the United Center.

After a banner ’14-15 campaign that culminated with a Vezina nomination, Dubnyk has failed to match those (admittedly high) standards this season. Though his record is OK — 11-7-2 — his GAA (2.55) and save percentage (.909) leave plenty to be desired. He’s also given up three or more goals in four of his last five starts, including four goals against both the Penguins and Bruins in mid-November.

For Chicago, Corey Crawford will get the start in goal.


Cory Schneider‘s in net for New Jersey as the Devils host the Avalanche. Colorado played last night — a 5-3 loss to the Isles, in which Semyon Varlamov allowed four goals on 27 shots — so it has yet to name a starter. Safe money’s on Reto Berra in the second of a back-to-back, though.

Mike Condon, back in the No. 1 role with the injured Carey Price out six weeks, goes for Montreal against Columbus. Sergei Bobrovsky starts for the Blue Jackets.

— It’s Steve Mason versus Craig Anderson as Ottawa invades Philly. Anderson, now the full-fledged No. 1 with Andrew Hammond (concussion) out, went 6-2-2 in November with a .925 save percentage.

Linus Ullmark goes for Buffalo in Detroit, while the Wings counter with Petr Mrazek.

Mike Smith‘s back in goal for the Coyotes after Anders Lindback started on Saturday. The Preds are likely to go with Pekka Rinne.

— Good matchup in St. Louis tonight, as veteran Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo goes up against one of the best young ‘tenders in the game in Jake Allen.

— The Flames are going back to the Karri Ramo well tonight when they host Dallas. With Kari Lehtonen still hurt, Antti Niemi looks likely for the Stars.

— No confirmations out of Los Angeles yet, but Jacob Markstrom is likely for the Canucks while Jonathan Quick is likely for the Kings.

— No confirmations out of San Jose-Pittsburgh, either. But since neither team played last night, it’s likely both No. 1s, Marc-Andre Fleury and Martin Jones, will be in net.

More injury trouble for the Rangers — Klein out 2-3 weeks

Kevin Klein, Gustav Nyquist

As if losing Derek Stepan wasn’t going to be hard enough, the New York Rangers will also be without defenseman Kevin Klein for the next little while.

Klein has a “strained oblique,” the club announced today. The 30-year-old suffered the injury early in yesterday’s 4-3 win over Carolina. He’ll be out 2-3 weeks.

Klein, a right shot, has spent time paired with Marc Staal, Keith Yandle and Ryan McDonagh this season. The way Dan Girardi and Dan Boyle have struggled (see: here and here) on the right side, you could make the argument that Klein was the last defenseman they could afford to lose. (You may not win the argument, but you could sure make it.)

With Klein out, Dylan McIlrath will get back into the lineup tomorrow in Brooklyn.

Currently, the Rangers have just six healthy defenseman on their roster.

Kane, Holtby, Duchene named NHL’s three stars for November

Patrick Kane

A winger, a goalie and a center were the NHL’s three stars for October.

And now a winger, a goalie and a center are the NHL’s three stars for November, too.

On Tuesday, the league announced that Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Washington’s Braden Holtby and Colorado’s Matt Duchene were the first, second and third stars for the month, this after naming Dallas’ Jamie Benn, Montreal’s Carey Price and Boston’s David Krejci as the three stars last month.


Kane led the NHL with 15 assists and 23 points, registering at least one point in all 13 November games to guide the Blackhawks (13-8-3, 29 points) to a 7-3-3 month and third place in the Central Division.

Holtby went 9-2-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and one shutout to pace the NHL in wins and backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to a 9-3-1 month and second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Duchene paced the NHL with 11 goals and ranked second with 20 points in 14 games to power the Avalanche (9-14-1, 19 points) to a 6-8-0 November. In doing so, he became the first Avalanche player to score 11 or more goals in one calendar month since February 2003 (Milan Hejduk: 12).

Kane, of course, is also currently riding a 19-game point streak, the longest by an American-born player in NHL history and the longest by any player since Sidney Crosby had a point in 25 straight games during the ’10-11 campaign.

Kane will look to extend his streak tonight, when the ‘Hawks take on the Wild (NBCSN, 8 p.m. ET).

Strome, Marner highlight Team Canada’s World Junior roster

Connor McDavid
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Hockey Canada announced its roster for the World Junior selection camp on Tuesday and, unsurprisingly, the list is filled with first-round picks.

Chief among them? Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner, taken third and fourth overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Strome, property of the Arizona Coyotes and Marner, property of the Maple Leafs, are just two of nine first-rounders from this June’s draft heading to camp; the roster also includes five first-rounders from the ’14 draft.

Thirty players in total were invited. That means there’ll be some stiff competition for roster spots, though not in goal, where only Calgary and New Jersey prospects Mason McDonald and Mackenzie Blackwood will attend.

The full list of invitees:



As for the fate of two WJC-eligible NHLers — Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann — Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski said his organization is holding out hope both will be available for selection.