For a team that is out of the playoffs and starting to look towards next season, there was a lot happening at practice today for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For one, the Leafs recalled prospect centre Joe Colborne and tossed him on Phil Kessel's line at practice in preparation for his NHL debut tomorrow.
Veteran netminder J-S Giguere, meanwhile, revealed he has been thinking about ending his season early for a few months. And fourth-line centre Tim Brent was announced as the Leafs' Masterton Trophy nominee.
The Leafs finish up their season tomorrow night against the Montreal Canadiens, a game that will pit rookie netminder James Reimer against Vezina Trophy candidate Carey Price. A Habs' win will guarantee they finish sixth in the East; a loss may mean they fall to seventh given the Buffalo Sabres are coming on strong.
Either way, the Canadiens will get a relatively tough assignment in the first round, facing off against the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins or Pittsburgh Penguins. (Toronto is guaranteed to finish 10th overall, win or lose.)
I've added audio from Leafs coach Ron Wilson and Habs coach Jacques Martin talking about tonight's game at the bottom of this post.
Here are some quick hits after today's practice:
Colborne's NHL debut
Prospect Joe Colborne will skate between Kessel and Joffrey Lupul in his first NHL game tomorrow, something that caps a wild ride for the 21-year-old since arriving via trade from the Boston Bruins as part of the Tomas Kaberle deal in February.
A 6-foot-5 centre who was drafted by the Bruins 16th overall in 2008, Colborne has eight goals and 15 points in 19 games with the Marlies since the trade.
"I was pumped," he said of learning he'd been called up to end the season. "I mean I've worked my whole life for this. A lot of people helped get me here, so it's been a lot of phone calls and texts thanking people for helping get me here. I can't thank the organization enough."
Wilson said Colborne would play in a prominent role in order to help him "succeed."
"[We want to] try and get him some experience," Wilson said. "Since we've picked him up, seen him play a number of times. He's played pretty well. And he gets a chance to play a game in the NHL, one of some significant, too. Hockey Night in Canada, Toronto-Montreal, probably doesn't get any better than that.
"It'll give us a way to evaluate him so he understands what he needs to work on in the summer time."
A Calgary native, Colborne's parents will be at the game. His father, Paul, is a oil industry bigwig who was born in Sania, Ont., and still cheers for the Leafs.
"He's been texting and calling me a lot more than usual," Colborne said. "As excited as I am, I know that he's really excited for me, too. I grew up a Jarome [Iginla] fan, but that changed pretty quickly not too long ago."
Veteran netminder J-S Giguere revealed this week that he will undergo hernia surgery in the off-season, something he expects to have done "as soon as possible."
Giguere said he had discussed ending his season as early as February, after he continued to suffer groin pulls throughout the year that were related to the hernia issue. The team's medical staff felt he could continue to play, but it only prolonged a trying year.
"It was a bit of a nightmare season for me," Giguere said. "I definitely needed to get an answer to what's going on. I've known since September that I would need to have surgery by the end of the year. It's a relief that I can now try and get it fixed at least.
"Obviously I don't have any complaints. I'm getting paid a lot of money for doing what I do, so I don't have no room to complain. Obviously I have five months to recover so I've got to make sure I use that time. The sooner I get it done, the quicker I can get into my recovery program and get ready for next year. I'm looking forward to getting my body strong for next year."
It's not yet known if Giguere will be in the mix for a role with the Leafs next season, but he could be in very tough to find another NHL team to take him on after such an injury plagued season. Not over the hill in terms of his position, he turns 34 in May and is hoping surgery will get him closer to the form he had with the Anaheim Ducks when he was their No. 1 netminder.
"It's a very important summer," he said. "I've got to make sure that I do take care of this problem. It's something that, if I don't take care of it, then nobody's going to want me, obviously. I wouldn't want to play another year like that. It's an easy decision for me. And it's a pretty common surgery. I'm looking forward to getting it done and hopefully get back to a level where I can at least be competitive in this league."
Centre Tim Brent was named the Leafs' nominee for the Masterton Trophy today, as he joins the nominees from all 29 other teams up for the award to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey."
The 27-year-old from Cambridge, Ont., played his first full NHL season this year after bouncing around a little in the minors, playing well in a depth role. After battling to make the team in training camp, Brent had eight goals and 20 points in 79 games while averaging only 11:39 minutes a game on the fourth line and penalty kill.
"It's a great honour," Brent said. "I'm excited about it. It was a nice surprise this morning."
Brent won't play tomorrow as he's got an injured arm that kept him out of Wednesday's 4-2 loss against the New Jersey Devils.
Leafs headed to the worlds
There appears to be quite a few Leafs players joining their respective countries for the world championships, with Nikolai Kulemin (Russia), Mikhail Grabovski (Belarus) and Mike Komisarek (USA) all confirmed to be going to Slovakia later this month.
James Reimer, Dion Phaneuf and likely a couple other Toronto players are expected to be joining Team Canada, which will be helmed by Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis this time around. Luke Schenn is only a maybe at this point.