Leafs’ Franson expects to play in New York

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.

Former Rocket Richard Trophy winner Jonathan Cheechoo put on waivers

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After a two week stint showing his skills to the St. Louis coaching staff, Jonathan Cheechoo was waived by the Blues for the purpose of sending him to the AHL affiliate in Peoria. The news doesn’t come as a huge surprise for fans or those around the organization, yet it’s still shocking to be reminded of the fall from grace for the former San Jose Sharks’ sniper. Only five short years ago he was setting the Sharks’ franchise record with 56 goals in a single season.

Now, the Blues are the fourth organization in fourteen months that have chosen to leave Cheechoo off of their active NHL roster. Jeremy Rutherford from the St. Louis Post Dispatch explains how it went down for Cheechoo and what the move means for the Blues:

“Cheechoo, 31, who led the NHL in goals with 56 in 2005-06 with San Jose, had a quick start to training camp. But he didn’t score in the exhibition games and he appeared a step slow on the scoring opportunities that he did have. Still, Cheechoo is expected to give the Rivermen some veteran skill and provide the Blues with some much-needed offensive depth this season.”

The move to an AHL leadership may be the role Cheechoo is made for at this point in his career. His career has been in a downward spiral since the magical 2005-06 season. He still managed 60 goals in 145 games over the next two seasons, but that was as good as it was going to get. Since being traded to the Senators as part of the Dany Heatley deal, he’s been waived by the Sens, subsequently bought-out at the end of the season, released by the Stars after a short professional tryout, returned to the Sharks organization for an AHL season, and finally signed a two-way contract with the Blues this offseason.

How the mighty have fallen.

You have to give it up to Cheechoo for accepting this new role at this point in his career. After signing a $15 million contract in 2006, props to a man who’s willing to take the buses and play for an AHL salary. In the grand scheme of things, it’s great to pull in six-figures to play a game for a living—but there’s no question that it must be a different world for the former all-star.

The Blues expect Cheechoo to go down to the AHL and help provide veteran leadership for the prospects to hope to make the NHL one day. The invaluable experience he brings to the team, can only help the younger players who are looking to fulfill their potential with the Blues organization. If he can build on the 47 points he scored for the AHL’s Worcester Sharks in 55 games last season, he may even find himself as a midseason call-up this season.

Regardless, he brings much more to the table than your average AHLer. He may not have the 56-goal-scoring hands anymore, but he has more “experiences” to share than just about anyone in the league.