The Toronto Maple Leafs take to the ice with a decidedly different lineup in the home opener of their exhibition schedule against the Philadelphia Flyers at Air Canada Center Tuesday night.
The Leafs started the preseason with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Flyers at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario, as rookie Tom Nilsson scored the tying goal on the power play early in the third and newcomer David Booth tallied the only goal in the shootout.
The Flyers played split squad games Monday and are expected to dress most of the lineup that played in London on Tuesday with veteran Steve Mason starting in goal in place of rookie Anthony Stolarz, while Toronto will dress nearly two-thirds of what is projected to be their starting lineup in the season opener against Montreal on October 9th, including team captain Dion Phaneuf, leading scorer Phil Kessel, former Flyers top pick James van Riemsdyk and starting goalie Jonathan Bernier.
Leafs top pick William Nylander will be playing on the top line with Kessel and new addition Mike Santorelli. The 18-year-old forward was impressive in his one game at the rookie tournament in London, ON last week and was paired with Kessel during the club’s Blue and White scrimmages on Saturday and Sunday. It is likely that the young Swede will play the majority of the club’s exhibition games, but unless he dazzles management and Carlyle with his maturity and offensive skills, the eighth overall selection will be headed to MODO in the SHL for the 2014-15 season.
— David Alter (@dalter) September 23, 2014
Head coach Randy Carlyle has mentioned frequently that his approach this training camp is to take the depth acquired over the summer and assemble a forward unit with more balance and diversification. Not the prototypical “top-six, bottom six” philosophy with two scoring lines, a checking and energy line, but a “top nine” structure that ideally will have three lines playing at both ends of the ice and possessing the ability to score, with a versatile fourth line that can play 8-12 minutes per night and contribute on special teams.
The form that this “top nine” approach may take began with some line experimentation last weekend, as van Riemsdyk was played mostly with center Nazem Kadri and winger Matt Frattin. If the Leafs decide to split up the top offensive tandem of JVR and Kessel, it will be for the sake of getting consistent offensive output from more than one line.
The shift could result in veteran Joffrey Lupul being moved back to play with Bozak and Kessel or possibly being shifted to play right wing(where he is playing on Tuesday) to accommodate newcomer Booth, whose skill set fits a more offensive role and has played the left side most of his NHL career. Lupul played primarily the right side before being traded to Toronto in February, 2011.
Previous experience playing together may also be a factor in where players will be slotted. Booth and Mike Santorelli (who were paired with rookie Brandon Kozun on the weekend) were linemates in Florida and Vancouver, Frattin was teamed with former Marlies linemate Kadri and Daniel Winnik played with Peter Holland in Anaheim. *******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******
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