It has arrived. After months of psychiatric help and forcing myself to watch football, I can finally go back to destroying my social life and concentrating on hockey.
The Leafs are back in action and ready to make their pre-season debut. Many questions will begin to unfold and day-by-day the Leafs' final roster will take its form.
The Leafs lace 'em up against their division rivals tonight, the Buffalo Sabres. As always, the two should present a heated affair with goals a plenty. While the line-up's are nowhere near their final state, no one has to remind the players about the animosity that resides with these clubs.
The Leafs will be icing the following line-up:
Luke Schenn, Jeff Finger
Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo
Mike Van Ryn, Staffan Kronwall.
1 - Jiri Tlusty, Matt Stajan, Jason Blake
2 - Nikolai Kulemin, Robbie Earl, Darryl Boyce
3 - John Mitchell, Mark Bell, Dominic Moore
4 - Boyd Devereaux, Ben Ondrus, Ryan Hollweg
Looking at that, I think we'll be in for an exciting match-up (and probably a fight or two with Ondrus and Hollweg together). Most interesting is the debuts of Nikolai Kulemin and Luke Schenn though. Both will experience the Toronto fan base for the first time, but adjusting to the pressure shouldn’t take too long. "I have some butterflies for sure, but I'm most interested to see where I fit in," Schenn said at today's morning skate. "It's new territory, a different pace, a lot quicker, but it's good to have the world junior experience in my back pocket. I'm looking forward to putting on a Leaf jersey for the first time."
Schenn should see ample ice-time tonight with line-mate Jeff Finger. The duo are being expected to implement the "sandpaper" element that the Leafs are searching for. And looking at the forward lines, being aggressive shouldn’t be a problem tonight.
The Leafs' offensive attack will be spread out between two lines, with line 3 and 4 serving as the grinders. The first two lines aren't incredibly talented (Jason Blake leading the charge), but they should display some solid, two-way hockey.
A player to look-out for tonight will be Nikolai Kulemin, the Russian sniper whose impact on the Leafs is currently uncertain. This should be a great opportunity for him to present his game and introduce to Leafs fans what he's all about.
In goal, the Leafs will be starting Curtis Joseph in the first period and play Justin Pogge in the 2nd and 3rd periods. Pogge impressed Leafs fans last preseason, so it'll be interesting to see what he brings to the crease this time around.
Buckle up, Leafs hockey is back!
Leafs win 3-2 tonight
Kulemin, Boyce and Blake are the goal scorers.