Leafs Hit The Road To Battle Hurricanes Amid Own Storm Clouds

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer INovember 5, 2009

The Toronto Maple Leafs were back on the ice today, practicing with some different line combinations, particularly the one that will feature newcomer Phil Kessel.

Kessel, after spending game one in a Leafs' uniform on a line with Matt Stajan, will get a chance to play alongside John Mitchell this Friday in Carolina.  The move comes, according to head coach Ron Wilson, in an effort to get the second year centre going. Mitchell is goalless so far this season, with just five assists to show for his efforts.

Kessel was far and away the best player on the ice for either team on Tuesday as the Leafs lost a hard fought game 2-1 in overtime.

Getting away from the not-so-friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre may do the Leafs wonders, for more reasons than one, that being the fact that the team is win-less so far on home ice.

But even further is the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs today became the second known hockey organization to admit to getting their H1N1 shots, which has outraged many in the general public, who feel the sports team has jumped the line due to their status as professional athletes.

According to NHL on TSN insider Darren Dreger, the Leafs admit fully to getting the shots, though they also admit to no wrong doing in terms of how they acquired the vaccines.

News broke last night that members of the Leafs and the Marlies, the teams AHL affiliate, were given the needles following Tuesday’s game against the Lightning.  It was earlier today that the team acknowledged they got the shot based on the fact that they believed the room to be contaminated.

According to team sources, both Tyler Bozak and Andre Deveraux have been bedridden and quarantined with what they believe is the H1N1 virus.  Furthering the paranoia is the fact that Jiri Tlusty, a recent call up to the Maple Leafs, is also reporting symptoms believed to be associated with the virus, which led the Leafs to feel it necessary for them to get the shots due to the fact that they felt at higher risk.

For their part, the Ontario Health Minister is outraged at the fact that the Leafs were allowed to get the shot, which is in high demand right now among everyone.  Ontario says they will launch a probe into how the members of the Maple Leafs were allowed to jump queue, and how they acquired the much sought after vaccinations.

More on this as it develops.


Friday night against the Hurricanes

The Leafs get back to game action with two big games this weekend, starting tomorrow night in Carolina.

Toronto travels to Raleigh to take on the Hurricanes and former Leafs head coach Paul Maurice.  As bad as the Leafs start has been this season, the ‘Canes have not fared much better.  They occupy the last spot in the East currently, tied with the Leafs at seven points a piece.

Both teams are on four game losing streaks.  The Leafs have lost four straight, but are riding the waves of a five game point streak, a run which consists of one win and four overtime losses.

The Leafs are withholding who will be the starting goaltender, but Ron Wilson made a point to say that he is no longer concerned with the health of Jonas Gustavsson and wouldn’t hesitate to start him in back-to-back games.  He also stressed that the team still has the confidence to win with Vesa Toskala between the pipes, a notion I perhaps respectfully disagree with.

Jeff Finger will also draw back into the lineup.  He will take the spot of Garnet Exelby, who will be a healthy scratch.

The Hurricanes will be doing some line juggling of their own.  Both Tuomo Ruutu and Ray Whitney suffered what the team is calling “upper body” injuries during Wednesday’s loss to the Florida Panthers.

The team has recalled Zach Boychuk and Brandon Sutter, and GM Jim Rutherford said both will likely get the chance to play within the team’s top nine forwards on Friday night against the Leafs.


Hall Of Fame Weekend

Once the game wraps up in Carolina on Friday, the Leafs will make a quick trip back to Toronto, where they will get set to host the Detroit Red Wings in the annual Hall Of Fame game on CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada.

For those in the area, there are a ton of events going on this weekend, not the least of which includes several meet and greet appearances.

The entire 2009-2010 Detroit Red Wings will be at the Hockey Hall Of Fame tomorrow afternoon signing autographs, and a handful of NHL legends will be on hand Saturday for a Q&A/autograph session.

For more information on all these events, head on over to the Hockey Hall Of Fame’s official website


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