Toronto Maple Leafs To Battle Montreal Canadiens in Season Opener

It’s finally here─the season opener.

For the first time in almost six months, the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs will go head to head, this time at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

After making little to no significant moves in the 2010 off-season, the Canadiens will ice a roster eerily similar to last season’s. Unfortunately for Habs fans, that roster does not include playoff hero Jaroslav Halak. Instead, Carey Price is expected to start in goal for the majority of the Habs’ 82 games.

However, Price may not be starting in goal tonight for the bleu, blanc et rouge. According to, the 23-year-old, as well as veteran defenceman Andrei Markov, didn’t practice with the team on Wednesday due to illness. If Price isn’t available to start tonight, the newly signed Alex Auld will get the nod. If Auld does indeed get the call tonight, Curtis Sanford will be called up from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.

Mike Cammalleri was handed a one game suspension for his slash on Nino Niederreiter of the New York Islanders last Saturday. Without Cammalleri, the Canadiens, already an offensively handicapped team, could have trouble scoring goals.

With Cammalleri out, youngster Lars Eller is expected to skate on the top line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. Eller played in seven games last season with the St. Louis Blues, scoring two goals. He was acquired from the Blues along with Ian Schultz in the very same trade that saw Jaroslav Halak get dealt.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, will start veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere in net, choosing to sit sophomore Jonas Gustavsson. Giguere was named the Maple Leafs starting goaltender before training camp even began, and will look to build on a strong finish to last season.

Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Kris Versteeg will make up the Leafs top line tonight. Nikolai Kulemin, now in his third season, and Mikhail Grabovski will skate on a line with Clarke MacArthur. Kessel led the league in goals during the pre-season, with Nikolai Kulemin breathing right up his neck.

The Leafs finished dead last in the penalty killing and power play departments last season. With the addition of two-time 20+ goal scorer Kris Versteeg and the return of PK specialist Fredrik Sjostrom, the Leafs should be, at least, somewhat improved when it comes to both scoring on the power play and keeping the puck out of the net while shorthanded.

After being left out of all captaincy positions, fans and writers alike have been speculating about Tomas Kaberle, and whether or not this will be his final home-opener as a Maple Leaf. Kaberle has played for the Maple Leafs his entire career, scoring 45 or more points in a season six times.

Tonight’s players to watch

Toronto – D – Dion Phaneuf

Phaneuf was named the 18th captain in franchise history during the off-season. He had a less-than-stellar training camp and pre-season and will be looking to rebound with a good start to the season.

Montreal – RW – Brian Gionta

Just like Phaneuf, Gionta was named team captain during the off-season. Will he be able to follow in the footsteps of some of the best Habs of all time? Only time will tell.

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