The Toronto Maple Leafs’ plans to send out a group of forwards Friday night close to the one that will open the NHL season in a couple of weeks took a hit when centre Tyler Bozak was forced out of the lineup.
Bozak was too “banged up,” in the words of head coach Ron Wilson, to play against the Buffalo Sabres in Friday’s pre-season game against the Buffalo Sabres. He was a late scratch and was replaced at centre on the Leafs’ third line by Darryl Boyce. The wingers are Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin.
Mike Zigomanis will replace Boyce on the fourth line between Joey Crabb and Colton Orr.
The loss of Bozak, who is not expected to be out long although he will not play Saturday in Buffalo in a rematch against the Sabres, was a little disappointing for the coaching staff. Bozak, Frattin and Kadri were put on a line for the final game of the 2010-11 season and played well against the Montreal Canadiens.
“They looked so good on that one line last year but unfortuately they won’t get to be together tonight,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the focus of the preseason games is turning to getting the veterans in tune, which means the first line of centre Tim Connolly and wingers Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel will come under scrutiny. The line did not perform well in a 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and Friday night’s game against the Sabres will be its second appearance as a unit.
“It’s tough the first couple of games,” Lupul said after Friday’s game-day skate. “We were playing against different players and we’re trying to implement some new systems so that first game is a feeling-out process. I expect us to be a lot better [Friday night]”
Here is the Leafs’ lineup for the Sabres’ game: