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A big night for Bozak's line Add to ...

They met together in August, playing in informal scrimmages at the Toronto Maple Leafs practice facility to get ready for the year.

And looking at the lineup, they had a sense they may be playing together.

So Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak and Colby Armstrong got a head start, formed a trio long before training camp even opened and, apparently anyway, developed a little chemistry.

That was on display on Monday night, as the Leafs opened the exhibition schedule with those three as their second line and they clicked for three of Toronto's four goals in a 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.

"We kind of figured that it could potentially be a line combination," Kadri said. "We kind of started practising together a little bit and ever since then, we stuck it out and played the whole summer together ... We all got here early, started working together and it's paying off."

While it's more than a little early to read much into anything, Leafs coach Ron Wilson had said prior to training camp he wanted those three to form his third line to start the year, a move brought about by the fact that newly signed centre Tim Connolly will take Bozak's spot alongside Phil Kessel.

Kadri and Bozak spent some time together last season on various lines, but never with the checker Armstrong, who Wilson felt may be the key to three working as a solid defensive unit.

"Every time I played Bozie with Army, when he was healthy, he was usually pretty effective," Wilson said of Bozak, who struggled many nights playing big minutes in his first full NHL season last year. "He's relaxed. He's somewhere like 10 pounds heavier and much stronger and he looks a little bit more mature so that's helped. I think every team would love to have three lines that can score."

"Your confidence gets down pretty low when things aren't going well and I haven't really dealt with a lot of that through my career on my way up," Bozak said of his trying season in 2010-11. "I'm feeling a lot better right now and this year. Hopefully we can just build off tonight."

Scoring depth was a huge problem for the Leafs a year ago, as their goal scoring ability dropped off considerably beyond their top for forwards. The organization's hope is that both Bozak and Kadri can take steps forward and that the veteran Armstrong can help lead the way.

That certainly appeared to be the case in Monday's game, as Armstrong opened the scoring by capping a pretty passing play on the power play, taking a feed from youngster Jake Gardiner in the crease. Bozak then scored on a breakaway in the third for the winner and added an insurance goal with six minutes left in the game.

"He's a great player," Armstrong said of Bozak. "He's got speed, he can make those quick plays. I like playing wing with him because he is fast up the middle, you can make little 'pop' plays, he's got good support, good instincts, reads the play well."

Leafs defenceman Carl Gunnarsson added the other goal for Toronto, while Senators rookie Jared Cowen scored both Ottawa goals.

It was an interesting night for Cowen, as he had earlier added some fireworks when he dropped the gloves five minutes into the game with Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, who was given an elbowing penalty on the play after a big hit on Tim Conboy.

"I was kind of glad I got in a fight there," Cowen said. "It kind of gets you settled down and gets some nerves out. I thought I did okay. I felt pretty calm after that and went from there."

Phaneuf wasn't very happy with the penalty, which likely came as a result of the league's new rules targeting hits to the head. Conboy appeared to be crouching as he reached for a loose puck, which was when Phaneuf — elbow and all — violently ran into him.

"That's the new in-between, right?" Phaneuf said. "I was talking to [the officials] and one guy had it and one guy didn't."

Just one more thing to keep an eye on in these exhibition games.

Here's audio from Wilson and Armstrong after this one:

 

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