It's a dark day on the NHL schedule due in part to U.S. Thanksgiving, but the Toronto Maple Leafs will be pretty busy here in Dallas.
After a quick practice at 11 a.m., the team boarded a bus to have Thanksgiving dinner and watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Miami Dolphins from a Star Suite at Cowboys Stadium.
Not a bad way to spend a day off.
"I'm just excited to see the game and the stadium," Joffrey Lupul said as he filled out his NFL picks for the Leafs pool (Team name: Loopdogg). "It's the biggest stadium in the world I think, biggest indoor stadium. The cheerleaders are all right, too."
"It's been a while since I've seen an NFL game," coach Ron Wilson said. "I haven't been in this stadium. I saw a few 49er games when I was [coaching]in San Jose and that was always fun. This will be neat.
"This is a game I'm usually sitting on my couch, having my third helping of turkey dinner or something. So we'll see. Hopefully we've got that kind of food where we're sitting."
The Leafs' European players seemed a little less certain about the trip, which is meant as a team-building exercise as much as anything. Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson said he didn't understand the rules but would try to follow along as best he could.
"I've never seen a game," Gustavsson said. "They don't play football in Sweden so everything's new to me."
Wilson joked that Mikhail Grabovski, who was back at practice after missing time with a leg injury, had only returned to take part in the trip.
"I think he really is rushing himself to get to the football game today," Wilson said. "That's a Belarusian tradition - sitting down and having turkey and watching the Dallas Cowboys play. So now he gets to do it live."
Team Loopdogg takes the Cowboys to win, by the way.
A few members of the team have been tweeting from the game:
- James Reimer took part in his first full practice in nearly a month and again talked with the media, saying he's feeling better but doesn't want to rush his return. Wilson said it'll be another 10 days or so before plays in a game, which would set his return around when Toronto plays in Boston on Dec. 3. That would mean he misses only three more games.
- Gustavsson will start Friday against the Stars coming off two good wins over the Capitals and Lightning.
- Grabovski was skating with what's believed to be a knee injury but remains roughly a week away. Wilson said he was hoping to have him for Sunday's game in Anaheim but that that looks unlikely now.
- The Leafs sent winger Mike Brown back to Toronto as his troubled groin injury is still causing him issues. He's being evaluated by doctors.
Leafs practice lineup:
Lupul-Bozak-Kessel MacArthur-Connolly-Kulemin Frattin-Colborne-Crabb Steckel-Dupuis-Rosehill
Extra: Grabovski, Orr
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf Gardiner - Schenn Liles - Franson