Frattin On The Verge Of Opening With Leafs
Thursday, 09.29.2011 / 4:02 PM ET / News
By Mike Ulmer - Mapleleafs.com commentator
It looks like Matt Frattin will be playing on the Leafs third line when the team opens against the Montreal Canadiens, October 6.
Frattin’s strong play in training camp might have earned him the spot regardless, but the knee injury incurred by Nazem Kadri ends any suspence.
Kadri’s sprained left knee will keep him out of the lineup from two to four weeks. Should he be out a month, the Leafs will have played two more preseason games and 10 regular season contests before his return.
Frattin will likely have Darryl Boyce as his centreman and Colby Armstrong on the right side when the Leafs play in Detroit, Friday. He seems a good bet to play the second end of the back-to-back in Toronto on Saturday.
“I have to have the two best games I have had so far,” said the 23-year-old.
A native of Edmonton, Frattin was drafted in the fourth round in 2007 and spent four years at the University of North Dakota. Last year Frattin led Division I players in goalscoring and finished tied for second in voting for the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top college player.
He has two goals this fall, including an empty netter and his play has won him the accolades of veterans.
“Frats does everything right,” said Armstrong. “He’s fast. He’s hard on the puck. He’s got a good shot. He’s good defensively. He backchecks. He hits. What else can you ask of a guy? You have to appreciate the camp he has had so far.”
Armstrong sees plenty of comparison between Frattin and the Leafs best two-way player, Nikolai Kulemin.
“He’s a mini-Kuli,” he said. “He skates with power and speed. They’re both the same kind of little fridges.”
Any line suits Frattin, of course, but playing his second NHL game with the wily Armstrong and Tyler Bozak, eases any pressure to score. Still, he acknowledges any offense from the third unit is essential.
“I think the third and fourth line have just as much to do with offence as the first and second,” he said. “Going positive (plus-minus) and adding in on offence really helps the team. That will help a team make the playoffs and keep on moving from there.”
Meanwhile Matt Lombardi could be ready to play when the regular season opens. Lombardi played just two games last season before being knocked out of the lineup for 11 months.
“If I am feeling good, I am going to try and play (this weekend), he said. “We will see how I feel tomorrow.”
Getting Lombardi back into the lineup constitutes a windfall for the Leafs who took on Lombardi in the trade for Cody Franson even though they did not know if or when he would play again.
One of the NHL’s fastest skaters, Lombardi can also play centre or left wing, help with the man advantage and kill penalties. He could stand in for Kadri on the third line. When his conditioning returns he could also slide into Tim Connolly’s perch between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.
Connolly sustained an upper body injury when he stepped on a stick and fell into the boards at practice earlier this week. He expects to be ready for Montreal but won’t play in either Detroit game.
“I was hoping to play but we have to err on the side of caution,” he said. “It’s likely going to be a few days. It’s hard to tell. Each day we’ll see how I feel and take it from there.”
Bozak, stationed between Kessel and Lupul last season, won’t play Friday because of a minor injury. He could play Saturday.
“We’re used to each other” Bozak said of his talented wingers.
“We played a lot of games together. There wasn’t anything new out there between us when we practiced together.”
Wilson will use goalie Jonas Gustavsson in Detroit, Friday and return Saturday with James Reimer.