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Liles, Giguere set to face former teams in Toronto

John-Michael Liles #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs ties up Niklas Hagman #10 of the Calgary Flames in a game on October 15, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Flames 3-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Claus Andersen/2011 Getty Images

Monday's going to be a night of reunions for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche.

In goal for the Avs will be Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Leafs starter at the beginning of last season who took a backup job in Colorado behind Semyon Varlamov in the off-season.

Playing for the Leafs, meanwhile, will be defenceman John-Michael Liles and checker Philippe Dupuis, who both started their NHL careers in Colorado and have fond memories of their time in Denver.

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Liles added that there are no hard feelings despite the fact he was on the trade block for a while and was eventually dealt to Toronto for a second-round pick at the end of June.

"I had a great time there in the eight years that I spent there," Liles said after practice Sunday. "It was a great organization to play for ... You look back on it with some pretty good memories, but that's all it is right now. Memories. My focus now is playing for the Leafs."

A fifth-round pick by the Avs 11 years ago, Liles beat the odds to become a fairly big part of their team since the lockout. Between 2005-06 and last season, he had 241 points in 444 games in Colorado, putting him 17th among all defencemen in scoring over those six seasons.

After three games in Toronto, Liles is second on the team in ice time with more than 22 minutes a game.

"I've talked to a few of the guys," Liles said. "A couple of my real good friends are on that team. Just more dinner plans than anything. It is what it is. That's kind of what you do [after getting traded]... You deal with it. You enjoy the time with them this evening and then tomorrow, it's business as usual."

Giguere, meanwhile, battled injuries all season last year with the Leafs and had one of the worst years of his career. Both he and Liles will likely be looking for some redemption against their former teams on Monday.


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- Another player with a Denver connection is Tyler Bozak, who played two years at the University of Denver and still lives there in the off-season. One of his closest friends, meanwhile, is Avs centre Paul Statsny, a fellow University of Denver alum who Bozak tries to model his game after.

"He was a guy that kind of helped me learn the pro game," Bozak said. "Helped me decide on the teams I wanted to play for when I was choosing. He was a big help for me. I love the way he plays. He's just so smart. He's not a flashy player, but he's just so smart."

- Tim Connolly, Colton Orr and Mike Brown all missed Sunday's practice. Connolly wasn't a surprise, as he's been battling an upper body injury for weeks, but Orr and Brown's absences were a bit puzzling at first.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson didn't speak to the media but posted on Twitter that Orr had a family matter and Brown needed a maintenance day. It's worth noting that Brown had groin surgery in the off-season that kept him out of the start of training camp.

- It's unknown as of yet if there'll be any lineup changes for Monday, but it's hard to imagine the team wants Jake Gardiner sitting for long. If he does miss the game against the Avs, however, one shift we could see is Komisarek bumped up to the second defence pairing with Liles and Luke Schenn taking shifts with Cody Franson on the third pair.

Schenn's ice time will be something to keep an eye on, as he played only 13:54 on Saturday and was minus-2. It's been a bit of a tough start for him, and assistant coach Greg Cronin was working with him individually in practice a bit on defensive zone coverage. Wilson has been using Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson as his top unit on the PK, which hurts Schenn's minutes.

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Up front, Jay Rosehill could draw in for Brown if he needs more time off.

Projected lineup:

Lupul - Bozak - Kessel MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Frattin - Lombardi - Armstrong Steckel - Dupuis - Rosehill/Brown

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf Liles - Schenn/Komisarek Franson - Komisarek/Schenn


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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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