The NHL's preseason schedule gets going tonight with four games in three cities: Buffalo, Toronto and Sunrise, Fla., the latter of which will host back-to-back games between the Panthers and Predators.
The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, are hosting the Ottawa Senators in their first action, with Jonas Gustavsson set to start in goal and be replaced at the halfway point by Ben Scrivens.
With five preseason games in six nights, the Leafs are going to be four over the minimum required number of veterans (eight) tonight. According to the CBA, here’s what constitutes a veteran:
“A Club shall be permitted to dress a minimum of eight (8) veterans for any Exhibition Game. For purposes of this Section, a veteran shall constitute either: (1) a forward or defenseman who played in thirty (30) NHL Games during the previous season, (2) a goaltender who either dressed in fifty (50) or more NHL Games or played in thirty (30) or more NHL Games in the previous season, (3) a first round draft choice from the most recent year’s Entry Draft or (4) any Player who has played one-hundred (100) or more career NHL Games.”
Here's the lineup for tonight (veterans in bold):
MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Kadri - Bozak - Armstrong Crabb - Colborne - Frattin Rosehill - Dupuis - Ryan
Aulie - Phaneuf Gardiner - Liles Lashoff - Gunnarsson
Gustavsson and Scrivens
The Senators skated in Ottawa before making the flight down for the game, so their lineup remains a bit unknown, even to coach Ron Wilson as of now.
(As an aside, the Philadelphia Flyers are here tomorrow, which means youngsters Brayden Schenn and Blake Kessel should be in the lineup. It's highly likely their brothers, Leafs players Luke Schenn and Phil Kessel, will draw in for that family affair.)
One player who made it clear he's taking preseason seriously this morning was Clarke MacArthur, who talked about wanting his line to continue to stay together and have success after all three had breakout campaigns.
"We had great chemistry last year, but it's a new year and we've got to do it all over again," he said. "I think the best thing we did was those little plays on the ice that made room for each other. We're a smaller line and those little plays, those are what made us successful.
"I think last year I came in having something to prove and trying to stay on the line and I want to come in and do the same thing this year. Nothing's every set in stone. If we're not playing good, you can be sure things will get changed. I want to come in here and play like I'm playing for a job, too."
MacArthur added that the Leafs as a whole have big expectations for the season after they finished last year so well.
"There are no more excuses," he said. "It's a matter of controlling the ups and downs throughout the season. You're going to have injuries, you're going to lose guys, but that's when you have to come back and rely on your systems and find ways to win games."
Here are a few quotes from Wilson today, with full audio from his press conference at the bottom (which featured a cameo by David Shoalts):
- On the testing of the verification line and shallower nets in the preseason games: "Anything we can do that makes the job easier upstairs is great. And the fact that the net's a little bit narrower gives a little bit more room behind the net for skilled players to wraparound or make plays from the back of the net. I'm all for stuff like that."
- On the team's blueline depth: "Gunnarsson in particular played really well in the second half when he was playing with Luke last year. And it's going to be a battle for all of those guys on the back end. So I have to split people up. Lashoff played really well in his 10 games or so naturally they get into the lineup."
- Wilson added that Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin will play in a lot of the games as they battle for one of the final spots on the team. "If they don't make our team, then it's good experience and they know what they have to work on."
- If you're keeping track, tonight's first line could be the Leafs top line during the season, while their second line is slotted in to be the third line. The third line tonight, meanwhile, may be the Marlies top trio when the season starts.
- And finally, the inevitable "playoff" question Wilson always gets around this time... "It's important to all of us, no matter what year it is, your goal is to make the playoffs. Then you have a chance of winning the Stanley Cup. That's what our goal is: To make the playoffs and then go from there."