OTTAWA – Jonathan Bernier and Nazem Kadri left the nation's capital under the cloud of injuries as the Leafs pulled out a 3-2 exhibition victory.
Scheduled to play his first full outing of the exhibition season against the Senators on Thursday night, Bernier departed after just a period at the Canadian Tire Centre, nursing an undisclosed injury. Kadri left two shifts into the third frame with a bruised left hand. Neither injury appeared serious, but both offered a scare with the regular season less than two weeks away.
Competing for the starting job with James Reimer this fall, Bernier's injury first occurred at the Leafs morning skate in Toronto, the team flying to Ottawa later that afternoon. "I wanted to give it a try," said Bernier, reluctant to offer much in the way of details as to his injury. "[But] it just felt worse, I guess, as the game was going so I just figured it was a better move to step off. It's a long season."
The 25-year-old faced 11 shots in 20 minutes – yielding a goal to Fredrik Claesson – giving way to Drew MacIntyre following the opening frame.
"It felt okay," he continued, "but I guess that's why I came off."
Bernier didn't consider the mysterious injury to be overly concerning and hoped to play in at least two of the remaining six exhibition games. Overall, after two-plus periods in two games, the former King is feeling optimistic about his performance.
"I want to play a full game and obviously that was the plan tonight, but it didn't happen," he said. "I'm starting to feel better, seeing the play a little bit slower than the first game."
Kadri, meanwhile, managed to defeat Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the faceoff dot early in the third before he too was forced to depart. The 23-year-old took a puck awkwardly off the hand late in the second frame, suffering from a "little bit of bruising" shortly thereafter. "He just felt that he couldn't grasp his stick," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said of Kadri's exit from the game.
X-rays came back negative on the prospective second line centre, a huge sigh of relief to the organization with the October 1 opener in Montreal fast approaching. The Leafs are already dealing with injuries to Colton Orr (bone bruise) and Frazer McLaren (finger) and appear to have just gotten past an early issue with Joffrey Lupul (back). Injuries to the likes of Kadri and Bernier thus would only add to the concern. At this point, it appears the club may have dodged a pair of bullets.
1. Time is now for Colborne
Randy Carlyle issued a challenge of sorts to a player on the bubble ahead of Thursday's game with the Senators. "Joe Colborne's got to separate himself from some people here," Carlyle said of the 23-year-old, paired with James van Riemsdyk and David Clarkson at the outset of an eventual win. "The time is now for a player like Colborne to show that he's got the necessary assets and attitude and commitment to make an impression in the NHL."
So far, that case remains muddled. While he boasts a real shot to crack an NHL roster for the first time in his career, Colborne, as of yet, has done little to "separate himself" at camp. He has yet to consistently demonstrate the capacity in which he could be of use at the next level. On Thursday night, the Calgary native totaled 15-plus minutes opposite Ottawa, mustering just one shot while falling on 11 of 16 draws. Before the injury to Kadri, he had been shifted away from the power duo of van Riemsdyk and Clarkson and onto a unit with Nik Kulemin and David Broll.
"The bus only goes by so many times and you want to be on that bus," Carlyle continued, though speaking more generally about the process of earning a job. "You're going to get so many opportunities. Who knows when the last one is... If you want to ride to downtown you want to get on the bus."
Following Thursday's game, Carlyle said he thought Colborne "played okay".
2. Rielly Watch
Morgan Rielly suited up for the third of the Leafs three exhibition games, totaling 20 minutes alongside Paul Ranger. Looking to crack the NHL as a 19-year-old, Rielly has focused his attention this fall on proving his worth in the defensive zone. "Obviously I knew that would be an area of the game that I would have to concentrate on," he told TSN.ca of the physical aspect of defending. "And I put quite a bit of hard work in terms of training into that area in order to be okay down low and what not. I feel like it's going pretty well so far."
Rielly got his first taste of the professional game with the Marlies this past spring, the B.C.-native playing in 14 games before adding eight more in the playoffs. The experience, defending against bigger and stronger competition, proved beneficial, handing the fifth overall pick an early lesson ahead of his first full training camp this fall.
"I was pretty happy with the way that I played in terms of handling the puck and on the power-play and that kind of stuff," he said of the American League experience, "but when it came to playing in our own end, having to play against some older players down low I knew that that was an area I had to improve.
"I kind of realized that if I wanted to make the jump I had to keep getting stronger and I think that's an area I put a lot of work into and I'm happy with the way it went."
3. Positive impressions continue from Raymond
For the second time in as many games Mason Raymond offered a burst of the speed that may well earn him a place on the Leafs roster. Raymond broke free of Chris Wideman by just a step, enough to tap in a cross-ice feed from the streaking James van Riemsdyk in the second frame against Ottawa. "It feels good," he said, "but yeah I need to continue to build on that."
A veteran of six NHL seasons, Raymond finds himself in the uncomfortable and unusual position of being without a contract, toiling on a professional tryout with the Leafs.
"It's different, but those are situations you can't control," Raymond said of his current standing. "This is reality, this is a situation that I'm in and you've got to make the most of it. Again I don't know why it happened or what it is, but as I said that's reality and you just have to go out and control what you can control and put your best foot forward."
4. Gunnarsson's health
At issue for the entirety of the 2013 season, Carl Gunnarsson is feeling good about his hip after a week's worth of training camp. Inked to a three-year contract in the summer, the 26-year-old told TSN.ca that while the injury would still require treatment throughout the year, it felt considerably better from where it began last season. "Not saying that I'm not going to have to get treatment or stay on top of it every day because that's what it's going to be," Gunnarsson said, noting the need for regular treatment, including electronic acupuncture. "I think that's how it is for every injury. If you have a knee surgery or you strained your ACL or whatever it might be, you've got to stay on top of that. Some guys play with braces or whatever it might be. I feel way better from last year so that's a good feeling coming into this season. Hopefully it's going to stay on this level and whenever we get a couple days off just treat it the way it needs to be treated."
5. Depth in Marshall
Kevin Marshall has quietly made a positive impression on the Leafs coach through the first week of training camp. Formerly of the Flyers, where he played in 10 games, Marshall adds depth for the club on the back-end. "You notice him in his battle and compete level," Carlyle observed of Marshall. "When you can surround your organization and fill your organization with people that have that attitude towards playing it makes everybody better because you've got to compete for your space on the ice and you've got to compete for your job." A second round selection of Philadelphia in 2007, Marshall spent last season in the American League, splitting time between Hershey and Toronto, the latter as a Marlie for 24 games (including the playoffs). With T.J. Brennan added in the offseason via free agency, the Leafs now boast 10 defenders with NHL experience – including the unsigned Cody Franson – a valuable commodity over the grind of 82 games.