The Toronto Maple Leafs hope to continue the success they enjoyed in November, as they face former teammate Nazem Kadri and the Colorado Avalanche at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday. The Leafs went 12-2 last month, due mostly to playing disciplined defensively, excellent special teams and the goaltending of Jack Campbell and Joseph Woll.
The club is loose and confident after 14 wins in their last 16 games, which was reflected in the focus of a large portion of questions after the morning skate on the lack of facial hair on Auston Matthews. The Leafs center bailed on his Movember mustache, which drew chirps from his teammates.
Toronto will have a difficult challenge in the Avs, who went 7-2-1 last month without the services of center Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon suffered a lower body injury in early November and returns on Wednesday after missing eight games. In his absence, Kadri stepped up offensively with 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists) in eight games and the former Leaf leads Colorado with 27 points.
The 31-year-old is in the final year of the six-year, $27 million deal signed with Toronto in 2016, and his hot start is setting himself up for a big free agent payday, but the Leafs 2009 first rounder is still conflicted about the trade in July 2019 that sent him to the Avs for Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot.
"When it happened, (it was) a bit of a bitter situation (and) ended up being bittersweet. I was put in a great situation coming to the Avalanche and being around a great group of guys, (but) I was upset. (Toronto was) where I wanted to be at the time but sometimes it can be a blessing in disguise." Kadri said. "(On why he was traded), that's not a question for me."
Although Kadri says he is more mature and appreciates playing in the NHL after 12 years in the league, he still believes that he has to play the style that has seen him get suspended in the playoffs three times in the last four years.
"That's how I play, I play on the edge, I play intense, I play passionate and emotional. That's what a lot of people like about me. So I'm going to continue to do that." Kadri said. “Obviously, you've got to work a little bit smarter, but I think I got a pretty good idea how to do that."
The deal that GM Kyle Dubas made sending Kadri to Colorado has been widely criticized because of Barrie’s failure to make a significant impact on Toronto’s blueline and Kerfoot not living up to expectations. Barrie’s struggles were mostly due to being mishandled by Mike Babcock and Kerfoot played well in the playoffs last season replacing John Tavares and this season on the wing with the Leafs captain.
Although Kadri is having a great year and will make boatloads as a free agent, but the eight-game suspension last May for a head hit on Justin Faulk is evidence that he has not really changed and that it was the right decision to trade him.
Jack Campbell will make his 18th start of the season for the season for Toronto. Ondrej Kase took part in the optional morning skate, but will not play. Joey Anderson is expected to replace Kase on the line with Pierre Engvall and David Kampf, and Travis Dermott will play alongside Rasmus Sandin on the bottom pairing.
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