TORONTO — Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri is a big fan of Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Fortunately for Kadri, he had one of his best games of the season with Bryant in the house to see it.
With the Lakers in town to face the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Kadri had a goal and a highlight-reel assist as well as a couple of big hits to help the Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 at Air Canada Centre on Saturday. His assist on Cody Franson’s first period goal was something straight out of the “Black Mamba’s” bag of tricks.
After the game, Kadri was asked about what it was like playing in front of Bryant, and he couldn’t help but gush.
“He’s one of my favorites, but I didn’t realize he was there till probably the end of the first period,” Kadri said. “I don’t know, maybe I can meet him somehow. But I’m happy he came to watch some hockey.”
Meanwhile, Kobe was busy winding up on the Jumbotron and posing with Leafs CEO Tim Leiweke.
Leafs players couldn’t help themselves in trying to get Kobe’s attention via Twitter.
If Kadri is going to play like that when Kobe is in the building, maybe the Leafs can splurge and get him season tickets whenever he decides to hang it up.
Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky returned to the ice this week after being out since October 20 with a concussion. There’s even better news ahead for Isles fans.
Arthur Staple of Newsday reports the 37-year-old defenseman will return to practice today. Visnovsky has passed his latest round of neurological tests but he hasn’t been cleared for contact. The hope for the Islanders is that he will be ready to play just before the Olympic break.
This season, Visnovsky has played in eight games with a goal and two assists. He was acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks during the 2012 NHL Draft and with how taxed the Isles defense has been this season, his return will be a big one for New York.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Marian Gaborik has been out of action since Dec. 21 with a broken collarbone. His initial diagnosis for recovery was six weeks and time is ticking away for him to get back in action.
Gaborik’s motivation to return as soon as he can includes being named to Team Slovakia for the Olympics and being in the final year of his contract. He tells Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch he’s not going to rush his way back and put himself in further danger.
“I can’t play if I’m not right,” Gaborik said. “I’m not going to cheat myself, or cheat a team — this team (the Blue Jackets), or an Olympic team. The other thing is, I have to be in shape to play. I obviously can’t just jump into games.”
Gaborik has played in 18 games this season with five goals and 12 points. That’s decent production for how much he’s played, but injuries have been a big problem this year. He injured his knee in November and in his first game back after that he broken his collarbone.
The Olympics makes for a great motivation to get in shape, but time is ticking away for Gaborik.