As Cody Franson walked the bowels of the Air Canada Centre Saturday night, he admitted it was tough to watch his team fall 5-2.
Adding insult to injury, a fan decided it was the perfect time to toss a jersey on to the ice during the third period.
Franson is healthy and cleared to play – he expects to be in the lineup tonight when the Leafs play their first road game of the season against the Rangers.
He said coach Randy Carlyle made it known he wouldn’t play against the Penguins just prior to pre-game skate.
The Leafs defenseman has been out of action since Sept. 28 nursing bruised left knee.
With the team involved in a back-to-back situation, with travel, it’s not entirely surprising Carlyle wanted to ease his blue liner back into the lineup.
The team did not have a morning skate in New York Sunday so final lineup changes won’t be known until game time.
When he does return, Franson insists the play, which sidelined him for the final two preseason games as well as the first two games of the regular season, won’t change the way he approaches lose pucks behind the net.
“My mindset won’t change,” he said. “If I could’ve had that play over again, I would’ve approached that situation the same way. Any time you’re going in for the puck that’s on the wall, you have to be somewhat cautious and that’s how I approach it. Some times those things happen.
“That play won’t be in the back of my head when I play.”
At Saturday’s morning skate Franson was seen taking shifts with Roman Polak. According to NHL.com’s projected lines for tonight’s game against the Rangers, the two will be paired together with rookie Stuart Percy the odd man out.
Franson and Polak have never played together, but they’re certainly not strangers to one another.
Their stalls are next to each other in the Leafs dressing room and their history of playing against one another dates back to their Western Hockey League days when Franson was a member of the Vancouver Giants and Polak was patrolling the blue line for the Kootenay Ice.
“I played against him one year… one or two years,” Franson recalled. “He was in Kootenay so we only played once or twice a year. He was a bit strong kid back then and I played against him in St. Louis, Peoria and all those other places. I’ve played against him, I wouldn’t say a lot, but definitely in a few different places and it’s evident what kind of player he is.”
Polak’s memory of their WHL encounters was a little fuzzy.
“I don’t remember anything when I was in Kootenay. It was a long time ago,” he said. “It was a long bus ride, I remember the long bus ride from Kootenay to Vancouver. It was like 12 hours.
“He’s a great player, he’s a skilled player, offensive player so I’m just going to give him the puck and he’s going to do his thing. I’m going to do my thing in the defensive zone.”
Their junior memories may not be fond, but they agree it’ll take time adjusting to playing with one another.
“Any time you play with somebody new, it takes a little bit to feel them out and see how they think the game. There’s always a small adjustment window period for that and you just hope to make it as seamless as possible,” said Franson.
Added Polak, “We need to talk more – talk on the ice because we didn’t play with each other. We just have to talk more, but he’s a great player and we can figure it out on the ice.”
The Leafs have allowed nine goals against in their two losses to open the season, hopefully the veteran pair can help shore up a glaring issue tonight.