By HOWARD BERGER
NASHVILLE (Nov. 18) – Fans of the Maple Leafs may soon be able to watch the Toronto Marlies in action at the Air Canada Centre.
It’s not that the Marlies are planning to vacate Ricoh Coliseum, but rather that the Leafs are quickly exhausting their supply of healthy bodies. A reasonable facsimile of the AHL farm outfit could be on display when the Leafs host Washington Saturday night.
Already playing without No. 1 goalie James Reimer and forwards Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong, the Leafs went down two more skaters during Thursday night’s 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. I was loitering outside the visitors’ dressing room at Bridgestone Arena roughly 40 minutes after the game when forward Matt Lombardi and defenseman Mike Komisarek left the building with their “upper-body” injuries – as described earlier by coach Ron Wilson. At the risk of being accorded the “Feschuk” treatment, I will pass along that Lombardi – the former Predator – walked to the team bus with his left arm resting at a 45-degree angle in a sling while the well-trained Komisarek chose to hide his right hand and forearm beneath a black sport-jacket.
If these ailments are as serious as my eyes were led to believe, the Leafs will be down six regular skaters for the game against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals on Saturday. Compounding the issue is the start of a four-game road trip less than 24 hours later – at 5 p.m. Sunday – in Carolina that continues through Tampa, Dallas and Anaheim. There is a three-day break between the matches in Florida and Texas, but none of Reimer, Grabovski or MacArthur are expected to return before the end of the trip. And, if Lombardi’s sling indicates something like a dislocated elbow, he also won’t be back anytime soon.
All of this occurs on the cusp of a three-game losing streak and a 6-7-1 record since the 4-0-1 break from the gate. The Leafs have dropped four consecutive matches on home ice. They are falling in the Eastern Conference standings. And their path – right now – is more cluttered than at any point this season.
Here are some of my photo images from the game at Bridgestone Arena:
NASHVILLE GOALIE PEKKA RINNE – PROFUSELY RICH AFTER SIGNING A LUCRATIVE, LONG-TERM DEAL RECENTLY – ENJOYED A SPLENDID NIGHT AGAINST THE MAPLE LEAFS, WHO OUT-SHOT THE PREDATORS 39-22 BUT STILL LOST BY THREE.
ALL SECTIONS IN BRIDGESTONE ARENA WERE OCCUPIED FOR THE LEAFS LONE VISIT OF THE SEASON, BUT MANY SEATS WITHIN THOSE SECTIONS WERE NOT.
LEAFS GOALIE BEN SCRIVENS (ABOVE) APPEARS TO BE ASKING DEFENSEMAN CARL GUNNARSSON (36) ABOUT THE GLARING TURN-OVER HE COMMITTED IN THE RIGHT-WING CORNER THAT LED TO MARTIN ERAT’S FIRST-PERIOD GOAL AND A 1-0 NASHVILLE LEAD.
ON THE ATTACK FOR MUCH OF THE NIGHT, THE LEAFS DID THEMSELVES IN WITH THEIR CHRONIC DEFENSIVE MISCUES. RINNE DIDN’T HELP THEIR CAUSE EITHER.
THIS WAS A MISTAKE, THOUGH A FAIRLY SCRUMPTIOUS ONE. I TREATED MYSELF AND THE STAR’S ROSIE DiMANNO TO A FRIED FUNNEL-CAKE SPRINKLED WITH ICING-SUGAR. ROSIE’S GUILT WAS TEMPERED BY THE FACT SHE’D EATEN ONLY A PEAR BEFORE HAVING DINNER IN THE PRESS LOUNGE. I DIDN’T FEEL GUILTY AT ALL… JUST A BIT SICK TO MY STOMACH AFTERWARD.
DEFENSEMAN LUKE SCHENN SPARED SCRIVENS A MOMENT OF EMBARRASSMENT IN THE SECOND PERIOD (ABOVE) WHEN HE SWEPT A PUCK OFF THE GOAL-LINE AFTER THE NETMINDER HAD INADVERTENTLY DEFLECTED IT BACKWARD IN HIS CREASE. BUT SCRIVENS EARNED HIS LUCK LESS THAN A MINUTE EARLIER WITH AN EYE-POPPING THEFT OF NASHVILLE’S MIKE FISHER, WHO APPEARED TO HAVE A YAWING CAGE ON A 2-ON-1 CROSS-FEED FROM ERAT. SCRIVENS DARTED OUT HIS RIGHT PAD AND MADE THE TYPE OF SAVE THAT WILL KEEP JONAS GUSTAVSSON GLUED TO THE BENCH.
THE ART OF SCREENING A GOALTENDER IS DISPLAYED TO PERFECTION (ABOVE) BY THE PREDATORS PATRIC HORNQVIST.
THE PRESS BOX LOCATION AT BRIDGESTONE ARENA IS RATHER UNORTHODOX (ABOVE): IN THE LAST ROWS OF THE UPPER DECK BETWEEN THE BLUE-LINE AND THE GOAL DEFENDED IN THE FIRST AND THIRD PERIODS BY THE VISITING TEAM. BUT, IT STILL PROVIDES A MORE-THAN ADEQUATE VIEW (BELOW) OF THE ACTION.
NASHVILLE IS THE ONLY TEAM IN THE NHL THAT PROVIDES LIVE ENTERTAINMENT IN-BETWEEN PERIODS: A ROCK-BAND (ABOVE) ON A STAGE AT ONE END OF THE ARENA.
WHILE HIS TEAMMATES GAZE AT A DOG-AND-PONY ACT ON THE VIDEO-BOARD ABOVE CENTER-ICE, PEKKA RINNE TAKES A WELL-EARNED REST DURING A TV TIME-OUT IN THE THIRD PERIOD. RINNE WAS VERY BUSY IN THE FINAL FRAME, AS EVIDENCED BELOW. BUT, HE DIDN’T YIELD AN INCH TO THE VISITORS.
TORONTO DEFENSEMEN JOHN-MICHAEL LILES (24) AND CODY FRANSON (4) WERE FEATURED DURING THE GAME. LILES SCORED THE LEAFS ONLY GOAL – HIS THIRD OF THE SEASON. ALL HAVE COME ON CONSECUTIVE THURSDAY NIGHTS THE PAST THREE WEEKS IN ROAD GAMES AGAINST CENTRAL DIVISION TEAMS COLUMBUS, ST. LOUIS AND NASHVILLE. FRANSON, ACQUIRED FROM THE PREDATORS, DRESSED FOR ONLY THE SECOND TIME IN 13 GAMES AND TOLD PAUL HENDRICK (BELOW) OF LEAFS-TV AFTERWARD HOW STRANGE IT WAS FACING HIS EX-TEAMMATES.