Smith recalled by Leafs for game in Ottawa

- November 9th, 2014

OTTAWA — The Maple Leafs have recalled forward Trevor Smith from the Toronto Marlies in advance of the game against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.
In 52 games in the National Hockey League, Smith has seven goals and eight assists.
The Marlies captain has two goals and three assists in eight games with the Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate this season.
After arriving in the nation’s capital in early Sunday, the Leafs did not hold a morning skate. In a game that originally was scheduled for Oct. 22 but postponed after the shootings in downtown Ottawa, the Leafs will look to build off a 5-4 win against the New York Rangers on Saturday.
The Sens, meanwhile, took the morning off after losing 2-1 in a shootout against the visiting Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
It is expected that James Reimer will start in goal for Toronto. In 13 career games against the Senators, Reimer has a 9-2-0-1 record with a .944 save percentage, a 1.98 goals-against average and three shutouts.
The Sens will be wary of Phil Kessel, and not just because the Leafs forward is on a six-game points streak (four goals and seven assists) and is tied for third in NHL scoring with 19 points (eight goals and 11 assists) in 14 games. In 46 career games against Ottawa, Kessel has 25 goals and 21 assists.
Before the clubs learned on Oct. 22 that their game was postponed, Senators coach Paul MacLean had only good things to say about Kessel.
“Kessel has the ability to disappear on the ice and show up in a place where the puck is,” MacLean said. “That is one of his skills and one of his talents. Brett Hull did a similar thing. The guys who score like he does they have that ability. We just have to make sure we are aware of where he is on the ice.”
Leafs forward Leo Komarov, meanwhile, already has equalled his rookie points output, with nine points (one goal and eight assists). Two years ago, Komarov, the catalyst in the Leafs’ win against the Rangers, had nine points in 42 games. Of Komarov’s five goals in the NHL, four have been game-winners.
Robin Lehner likely will get the call in net for Ottawa. The status of Senators forward Bobby Ryan, who did not play on Saturday with what is thought to be a wrist injury, is unclear.
The Leafs are 7-5-2 and have been solid on the road, going 3-1-2. The Senators are 7-3-3 and sport a tidy 4-0-3 mark at the Canadian Tire Centre.
A moment of silence will be held in honour of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo before the opening faceoff.

Leafs’ Ashton suspended 20 games

- November 6th, 2014

Maple Leafs forward Carter Ashton on Thursday was suspended for 20 games by the National Hockey League for using a banned substance. Ashton will forfeit $169,185, but it will not count against the salary cap.
Here are the statements from the NHL, Ashton and the Leafs:

NHL suspension announcement:

NEW YORK (Nov. 6, 2014) – Toronto Maple Leafs forward Carter Ashton has been suspended for 20 games, without pay, for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the suspension is accompanied by mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment.

Based on his average annual salary, Ashton will forfeit $169,185.

The National Hockey League will have no further comment on this matter.

Ashton’s statement, released by the NHL Players’ Association:

“I suffered an asthmatic spasm in late August while in a training session getting prepared for the 2014-15 NHL season. One of the other athletes I was training with gave me an inhaler in order to help open my airway, which provided me with immediate relief from my asthma attack. I kept this inhaler and used it a second time early in the training camp upon experiencing another asthma episode. Unfortunately, I incorrectly assumed that there were no problems associated with the use of this inhaler and I used it without checking to see whether its contents were permissible under the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.

I now recognize that I ingested Clenbuterol, a prohibited substance, through the inhaler. However, at no time was I seeking to gain an athletic advantage or to knowingly violate the terms of the program. I used the inhaler in response to exercise-induced asthma, a condition that my doctor with the Toronto Maple Leafs has since diagnosed and he has prescribed me with an inhaler.

As a professional hockey player, I recognize that I am responsible for what I put into my body, and I will not appeal my suspension. While I am extremely disappointed that I have let my teammates, our fans and the Maple Leafs organization down, I will work very hard during my suspension to stay in game shape so that I can help out the team when I am able to return.”

Statement from the Maple Leafs:

Toronto Maple Leafs President and Alternate Governor Brendan Shanahan issued the following statement following the 20-game suspension of forward Carter Ashton:

“The Toronto Maple Leafs support the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program and today’s decision to suspend forward Carter Ashton. At this time, out of respect for Carter and the process involved, the Club will not comment any further.”

Kessel produces while hitting career Leafs low

- November 1st, 2014

Even when he does not get his usual share of ice time, Phil Kessel can produce.
Kessel reeled off three points in a 4-1 Maple Leafs victory in Columbus against the Blue Jackets on Friday night.
This despite Kessel seeing just 12 minutes 39 seconds of ice time. That represents the lowest total for a single game in Kessel’s time with the Leafs. His previous low in a Toronto uniform was 13 minutes 34 seconds in a game against the Montreal Canadiens on April 13, 2013.
“That’s the way it worked out,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said during his availability late on Saturday afternoon.
“We were saving him for tonight.”
Well, not really. Kessel played four minutes 50 seconds in the first period versus Columbus, three minutes 54 seconds in the second and three minutes 55 seconds in the third.
You have to go back almost six years to find Kessel’s previous low for ice time in one game. That came on Nov. 8, 2008, when Kessel was with the Boston Bruins in a match versus the Buffalo Sabres.
Kessel, through 10 games this season, is averaging 18 minutes 43 seconds in ice time.
Kessel had a goal and two assists against Columbus while playing on a line with Daniel Winnik and Nazem Kadri.
The goal was Kessel’s sixth of the season. It also was his 32nd in the month of October in the past five years, tying him for most in the league in that span with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.
The Leafs play host to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night and didn’t have a morning skate. With Joffrey Lupul out for a couple of weeks nursing a hand injury, the Leafs recalled forward Sam Carrick from the Toronto Marlies and returned defenceman Stuart Percy to their American Hockey League affiliate.
Kessel has six goals in eight career games versus Chicago.

Leafs hire Mark Hunter as director of player personnel

- October 21st, 2014

The Maple Leafs have added an experienced, proven winner to their front office.
The Leafs on Tuesday morning announced the hiring of Mark Hunter as director of player personnel.
Hunter and his brother Dale Hunter acquired the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League in 2000 and built the club into one of the most successful franchises in the Canadian Hockey League.
“I’m very excited about joining the Toronto Maple Leafs organization,” Hunter said in a statement released by the Leafs. “I am grateful for the opportunity that has been given to me by Brendan Shanahan, David Nonis and the entire management team. I would like to thank the London Knights organization for 12 great years. I am looking forward to the start of a new chapter in Toronto.”
Hunter, who was the Knights’ vice-president and general manager, will oversee the Leafs’ pro scouting, amateur scouting and player evaluation departments.
It’s a solid hire by Toronto, as Hunter has earned a reputation in his time in London as an astute judge of hockey talent. What’s more, his experience in the game as a player, coach and general manager will bring an element to the Leafs’ front-office that was lacking after the off-season firings of Dave Poulin and Claude Loiselle.
A highlight of many for Hunter with the Knights was the 2004-05 season, when the team set 13 Ontario Hockey League records, going 59-7-2-0 and eventually winning the Memorial Cup on home ice.

Kozun’s future remains unclear

- October 18th, 2014

DETROIT — There was no immediate update on the status of Maple Leafs winger Brandon Kozun, who suffered a high ankle sprain against the Red Wings on Friday night.
Kozun did not make the trip to Detroit and had an MRI during the afternoon.
“Being Saturday, sometimes it takes a little bit more time to get these things read, so we have no update on Kozy at this point,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said a couple of hours before the Leafs and Wings met at Joe Louis Arena.
Kozun averaged just eight minutes 54 seconds of ice time in his first five games in the National Hockey League, but with his speed, had proven to be an effective penalty killer.
“He sure has made a strong contribution on the PK,” Carlyle said. “He is going to be missed.”
Matt Frattin will take Kozun’s place in the lineup, while Peter Holland was tabbed to take some of Kozun’s penalty minutes.
It will be Frattin’s first game since the season opener.
“Injuries are a part of the game and here is an opportunity,” Frattin said. “I just have to take it in stride and play my game and play fast.
“I am excited. The nerves are good. I’m ready.”
Jonathan Bernier starts in goal for the Leafs. Ex-Leaf Jonas Gustavsson gets the call for the Wings.