Panik to make Leafs debut Saturday

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Richard Panik acquired by Toronto off waivers from Tampa Bay on Thursday is set to make his Leafs debut tonight.

The 23-year-old forward, who has never played at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, is excited for the big stage.

“I haven’t played here because I was a healthy scratch when Tampa Bay played here,” said Panik. “It’s going to be my first game and I’m really excited. It’s a hockey town. Hockey Night in Canada so I’m really excited.”

It appears Panik will start the game against the Penguins on a line with former junior teammate Peter Holland.

“He has a history of playing with Peter Holland a little bit in Guelph in junior hockey,” said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. “The research from the Tampa people, we’re getting a guy that can make plays.”

Panik has appeared in 75 career NHL games over two seasons all with the Lightning where he has eight goals and 22 points.

The 6-foot-2, 212 pound Slovakian native was originally Tampa Bay’s second round pick at the 2009 NHL Draft.

“I went over systems yesterday so I kind of knew,” said Panik of Carlyle’s style. “It’s pretty similar to Tampa Bay. Nothing major. Simple things. That’s what I’m going to focus on and hopefully it’s going to workout.

“When you can keep the puck in their zone, it’s way easier to play. I’m going to try to make some hits. Stay in the offensive zone.”

Panik made adjustments to his offseason training in an effort to get prepared for the 2014-15 season.

“Every workout that I had, I was trying to treat it like a game,” he said. “Be ready at the workout and I had a mental coach too. I think it’s more mental than physical so I was focusing on that.”

With Panik making his debut, it appears Carter Ashton and Matt Frattin will be healthy scratches against the Pittsburgh Penguins.