Mikhail Grabovski wouldn’t mind a do-over.
When he was bought out by the Maple Leafs in July, Grabovski had some choice words for coach Randy Carlyle, telling TSN that he didn’t “feel any support from this (expletive deleted) idiot.”
A couple of hours before the puck dropped between Grabovski’s new team, the Washington Capitals, and the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night, the 29-year-old was asked if he could do it differently, would he change what he said?
“Probably done it differently,” Grabovski said. “It’s like so emotional, you know, and we all want to win and do for this (team) everything what we can do.
“From that period of time I think the years I spent in Toronto, I try to win Stanley Cup … that whole emotion, probably, feel the same. If I say (it) again, probably not.”
The game on Saturday night marks the lone visit to Toronto by Grabovski and the Capitals during the 2013-14 regular season. In his first 23 games with the Caps, Grabovski had seven goals and 12 assists and was plus-3.
Grabovski signed a one-year, $3-million US contract with Washington and he will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
He still owns an apartment in Toronto, and given his family ties to the area, he will be around once the season is done.
“I’m really happy to be here,” Grabovski said of returning to play in Toronto. “That’s first. I’m happy to be around my friends who love me. Like home ice, my old home ice. I’m just very excited and very happy.
“What (did) I learn? I learned a lot. From Toronto, a lot of positive stuff, a lot of bad stuff. I’m growing like a person and like a hockey player.”
Mikhail Grabovski wouldn’t mind a do-over.
Twenty games into this NHL season, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle is still waiting for his team to show its true identity.
Getting healthy and away from the long arm of the NHL law would certainly make that easier and it appears that help is on the way.
Centre Tyler Bozak participated in his first full practice Monday morning at the Mastercard Centre and is hoping to return to the lineup if not by Thursday night for Saturday’s big home date with the Washington Capitals.
Nazem Kadri has one more game to sit in his three-game suspension so won’t be available for Tuesday’s meeting with the Islanders but will be back Thursday for the Nashville Predators. And the team’s leading scorer, Phil Kessel, who missed Monday’s practice with what Carlyle called the flu, is expected back Tuesday as well.
The absence of Bozak was made even worse with David Bolland’s injury leaving the Leafs desperately short at centre. But Bozak felt strong enough to participate fully in a fairly taxing practice Monday.
“I’ll just take it day by day,” Bozak said of his status. “It felt good today. Things are getting better. Without a setback, I hope to be out there by the end of the week.
“It’s been getting better. Hopefully it keeps improving. The guys have come in and done a great job. We’ve still been getting wins and that’s the most important thing.”
Bozak said the injury occurred on a fluke play in a game against the Blue Jackets.
“It was just behind the net there in Columbus – a freak accident and I just tore the tendon and muscle in my hamstring,” Bozak said. “Obviously it hurt bad there for a bit.
“I’m not going to jump in if it’s not ready, but hopefully (Thursday.)”
The Maple Leafs are back on the ice Monday morning following Friday’s 4-2 win vs. the Sabres with some notable new looks.
For starters, the team’s leading scorer, Phil Kessel, is not participating. No official word has been given by the team but we will update after Randy Carlyle updates the media following practice.
In more optimistic news, centre Tyler Bozak is participating fully in the session, suggesting he is close to returning from the hamstring injury that has sidelined him since Oct. 25. Bozak is on injured reserve and eligible to return to the active roster later this week.
With Kessel out, the top trio at practice consists of Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk on the wings between centre Peter Holland who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.
Also absent for most of the practice is defenceman Mark Fraser, who left Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury. Fraser started the practice but left early.
Again, we’ll update with the updates when practice is done.
As expected, Leafs forward Nazem Kadri was suspended on Thursday for steamrolling Minnesota Wild goalie, Niklas Backstrom on Wednesday night.
In the ruling released Thursday afternoon, NHL disciplinarian handed down a three-game sentence to Kadri meaning he will miss both ends of the home-and-home series vs. the Sabres beginning Friday night in Buffalo.
Shanahan made the point that the hit wasn’t intentional but that Kadri could have done more to avoid the contact. See the official ruling video from the league here.
Interestingly, the league did not appear to factor Kadri’s second big hit in Wednesday’s game into the ruling. In the third period of the 2-1 shootout loss, Kadri ploughed Wild forward Mikael Granlund into the boards and was ejected after being assessed a match penalty. Replays of that hit, however, showed no contact with the head and the league rejected the severity of the play.
James van Riemsdyk has become the Maple Leafs’ latest centre by default.
With Dave Bolland and Tyler Bozak nursing injuries, coach Randy Carlyle had van Riemsdyk centring the top line between Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel at practice at the Air Canada Centre on Monday.
“He has played there before, so it does not take rocket science to go in that direction,” Carlyle said of putting van Riemsdyk in the middle. “We think he is more of the fit right now.”
Van Riemsdyk played centre for two years at the University of New Hampshire, but has done so sparingly in the NHL with the Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers.
“It’s different,” van Riemsdyk said. “When you are used to playing a certain position, you naturally know where to go and (now) maybe you have to think about it a little bit more. I think it’s a lot about timing — being in the right spot at the right time and not losing your speed and all of that stuff. I’ll get that through repetition and experience.”
Also at practice, Nazem Kadri was between Mason Raymond and David Clarkson; Jay McClement between Nikolai Kulemin and Troy Bodie; and Trevor Smith between Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr.
The Leafs announced on Monday that Bolland has had successful surgery to repair a tendon on the outside of his left ankle.
Bolland, who will be out of the lineup indefinitely, returned to Toronto from Vancouver on Monday afternoon.
Bolland was hurt during the Leafs’ 4-0 loss against the Canucks on Saturday night when he was checked into the boards by Canucks forward Zack Kassian.
Bozak, meanwhile, is nursing a hamstring injury and was placed on long-term injured reserve on Saturday. Bozak, who was hurt on Oct. 25 in a game in Columbus against the Blue Jackets, is eligible to return to the Leafs lineup on Nov. 21.
The Leafs (10-5-0) don’t play again until Friday, when the struggling New Jersey Devils visit, so van Riemsdyk should get plenty of time to sharpen his skills. It will be the Leafs’ first regular-season home game on a Friday night since Dec. 23, 2005, when they beat the visiting Boston Bruins 2-1.
The Devils (3-7-4) are off until Thursday night, when they face the Flyers in Philadelphia.
When the Leafs acquired van Riemsdyk from the Flyers in a trade for defenceman Luke Schenn last year, Carlyle had entertained the idea of using the 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward at centre.
“He’s a big man and we’re going to try him playing in the middle for us,” Carlyle said at the time. “It’s always nice to have a six-foot-plus centre in your top six. We feel there is an opportunity to explore him at centre.”
But it never happened, as camp that September was cancelled because of the lockout. When NHL clubs assembled for a quickie camp in January, there was no time for experimenting and van Riemsdyk stayed on the wing.