Nazem Kadri’s bid to make the Toronto Maple Leafs out of training camp has been derailed by an injury.
Kadri suffered a knee sprain near the end of Tuesday’s preseason game in Ottawa and will be out between two and four weeks.
He could miss up to 10 regular-season games and potentially have to start the year with the Toronto Marlies.
“It was just a freak accident,” Kadri said. “It was on the back check and I ended up running into the boards. Kind of caught my left knee a little bit on the inside there.”
Kadri's injury, to his MCL, is good news for Leafs prospect Matt Frattin, as both were in a battle for a job on the third line on opening night next week.
Frattin, who led the NCAA in goal scoring last season as a senior, is second on Toronto with five points in five preseason games. Kadri has two assists in five games.
“Definitely a little bit frustrating,” Kadri said. “At the same time, it could have been a lot worse. I’ve been playing pretty well I think. Obviously I’d love to keep that up.”
"It is a setback," coach Ron Wilson said. "He was playing pretty well ... It's a break for a couple of other guys he was in a battle with for playing time or a spot on the team, but that's hockey unfortunately."
Kadri joins a whole group of Leafs with minor injuries, although he’s the only one expected out for opening night so far. Tim Connolly (upper body), Tyler Bozak (undisclosed), Phil Kessel (groin), Mike Brown (groin) and Matt Lombardi (concussion) have all missed preseason games or practices of late with various issues.
“It forces me to continue to take other looks and also scramble up our lines a little bit,” coach Ron Wilson said. “See if there’s chemistry with other people and that sort of thing.”
On Thursday after practice, Connolly said he believes he'll be back by opening night. The four other banged up forwards, meanwhile, should all be able to play in at least one of the two preseason games this weekend against the Detroit Red Wings.
Prior to learning the extent of Kadri's injury, Wilson had talked about the battle between Kadri and Frattin in camp, calling it one of his "hard" decisions. He also, however, praised Frattin's play so far in exhibition.
“I fully expected [Frattin] to be NHL ready," Wilson said. "He’s as close as any new guy in any organization to be ready to play. It’s not like he’s 19 or 20 years old. He’s 23 so physically he’s ready. I think emotionally he’s ready.
“He can block shots, he can finish checks and we’re trying to find out if he can kill penalties, too. He has more all-around qualities. And Nazzy has probably more high end offensive skill in terms of making plays. Although I think Frattin’s probably going to be a better goal scorer.”
Frattin was in good mood after practice Thursday, joking with goalie Ben Scrivens that he "had his number" and was scoring on him at will. (The two are both from the same area and played in the NCAA against each other.)
A fourth-round pick by the Leafs back in 2007, the Edmonton native has had a bit of a long road to the NHL, playing four years at the University of North Dakota and running into some off-ice issues that resulted in getting kicked off that team.
Frattin said he's looking forward to having a good showing in Toronto's final two exhibition games and locking up a spot on the team's third line.
"I feel like I've done a pretty good job, but I've still got a lot of expectations for myself," he said. "I'm still not playing to my full potential, that I know I can."
"I'd rather have both guys healthy," Wilson said, "but Matt's done a really good job. He's capable of playing, it seems, in any situation and that's really important for us."
These were the Leafs lines at Thursday's practice, with five cuts to come as they head into the final six days of training camp:
MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Lupul - Bozak - Kessel Frattin - Boyce - Armstrong Rosehill - Lombardi - Crabb Brown - Dupuis - Orr
Aulie - Phaneuf Liles - Schenn Gunnarsson - Franson Gardiner - Komisarek Lashoff
Goalies: Gustavsson, Reimer, Scrivens