The Toronto Marlies played their 29th game of the season against provincial rivals, the Hamilton Bulldogs, in front of a sold out crowd at the Air Canada Centre. The Marlies sent the over 18,000 fans home happy with a 3-2 victory in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. Here are five things that caught my eye:
1. Injuries –One of the most important Marlies and Maple Leafs prospects, Jake Gardiner, missed his eighth straight game with concussion like symptoms. The Marlies have been very cautious with Gardiner, as they should, but Leaf fans should be concerned that he hasn’t played in three weeks. The Maple Leafs organization has been very quiet regarding his injury and there is no time table for his return.
Another important prospect, Nazem Kadri, played in his first game after missing three straight with a hip injury. Kadri showed no ill effects early on, but he did not see the ice in the third period as he took a vicious blind side hit from Zack Stortini late in the second. I don’t like to speculate, but you can’t help but think that it could be a head injury.
2. Joe Colborne –I have been harping on Joe Colborne all year about getting to the front of the net and using his big body to his advantage. He did just that early in the first period beating his man to the net and collecting a bad rebound for the game’s first goal. It was only Colborne’s second goal of the season. I thought Colborne was very effective on the night and if he continues to drive the net he will get rewarded more often.
3.Line Combinations –With the increased roster size this season due to the NHL lockout, coach Dallas Eakins has not had much consistency with his forward lines this year. Wednesday’s game was no different as Eakins had the blender out before the game. He broke up his checking line of Acton-Scott-D’Amigo with all three players on a different line. D’Amigo was on the left wing with Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin, Acton was in the middle between Kenny Ryan and Nicolas Deschamps and Scott found himself on the right side with Colborne and Carter Ashton. The one constant was the line of Keith Aucoin, Spencer Abbott and Ryan Hamilton who have been together for the past few games.
The most interesting change was to see D’Amigo up with Frattin and Kadri. D’Amigo has struggled this year and this might have been a ploy by Eakins to try and get him going, however, he failed to impress again. He was a bit of a victim due to the number of power plays that the Marlies had, but he was not noticeable when he was on the ice.
4.Brian Burke’s Comments – Brian Burke was interviewed during the first period of the game and he was asked which Marlies players he was impressed with this season. He quickly responded with Mike Kostka, praising the defenseman for his high hockey IQ. He made note that guys like Gardiner and Frattin have obviously been really good, as they should be seeing as they are NHL players. He also pointed out Nazem Kadri’s good play and how he loves his agitating style.
When Burke was asked about Paul Ranger he was very complimentary stating that based on his experience he should be a dominant player at AHL level and he has not disappointed.
He was asked which Marlies would be invited to a Maple Leafs training camp if the lockout ever was resolved and he was very hesitant to answer. He wasn’t sure how many players would get invited to camp depending on what the time frame is going to be. He did however mention that Korbinian Holzer was a guy that they had in their plans this year and that he would definitely be there, along with Kadri most likely. I was very interested to hear him also bring up the names of Joe Colborne and Jesse Blacker as possible invitees. Both guys have not been very good this year and maybe he was trying to give them a boost of confidence.
Burke also alluded to the fact that he expects Keith Aucoin to play some games with the Maple Leafs, but he will spend most of his time with the Marlies to continue to be a leader and help their young players develop.
5. Dominance on Home Ice – With the victory the Marlies continued to show their dominance at home improving their record in Toronto to 11-2-0-1. That is the best home record in the AHL and the victory also pushed them into first place overall in the Western Conference with 40 points.
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