Clarke MacArthur Returns To The Lineup Saturday, More Changes Coming?

October 12th, 2011 No Comments

Unless you were living under a rock last season you would have witnessed the line of Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski dominating the NHL at times last season.

The “Misfit” line as I like to call them, established themselves as a dangerous unit throughout the 2010-11 season, combining for an impressive 77 goals and 97 assists, for a total of 174 points on the season.

The Misfits’ effort was good enough to emerge as the 11th most dangerous line in the NHL, not bad for a line that was often the Toronto Maple Leafs second line of attack.

Perhaps even more impressive was this trio’s ability to play defense, emerging with a combined plus +18 rating, proving once and for all that despite the criticism and trade rumors surrounding these players that all three could play at both ends of the rink.

This summer, MacArthur emerged from the pre-season with a two game suspension for a questionable hit against Justin Abdelkader of the Detroit Red Wings, which was ruled a head shot by NHL head disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.

That suspension caused MacArthur to miss the first two games of the regular season, as well as one pre-season game.

Despite MacArthur being out of the lineup, both Kulemin (one assist through two games) and Grabovski (one goal and seven shots through two games) have been playing well. That said, as good as Kulemin and Grabovski have been, one has to think that the Russian Duo is looking forward to playing with MacArthur again, completing what many fans refer to as the “MacRussian” line.

Sophomore forward Tyler Bozak has emerged as an effective two-way forward early on, fitting in on a line with Colby Armstrong and rookie forward Matt Frattin.

Armstrong continues to be an effective fore checker and leader on the ice, while Frattin is looking to find his place amongst NHL forwards.

Frattin has registered five shots in his first two games and has shown a level of speed and moxie. But, with sophomore forward Nazem Kadri looking healthy again; it appears as if Frattin (who impressed at training camp) will need to be better if he wants to keep his place in the Maple Leafs lineup.

On the top line, injuries continue to cause Head Coach Ron Wilson to make adjustments. Tim Connolly continues to nurse his injuries (nobody saw that one coming); which means one of Matthew Lombardi or Bozak is likely to see some minutes on the top line.

On the back end off-season acquisition Cody Franson is chomping at the bit to get into the lineup, but with rookie defenseman Jake Gardiner and the oft-criticized Mike Komisarek looking good through the first two games it appears as if Franson may have his work cut out for him all season long, that is unless a trade can be worked out.

While neither Gardiner or Komisarek has looked out of place in their first two games, one of them will likely be sitting out this Saturday when the Maple Leafs play the Calgary Flames as Franson is said to be set to see his first regular season game action with the Buds, as per Head Coach Ron Wilson.

Between the pipes Wilson will continue to go with sophomore goaltender James Reimer until sometime next week where the Buds will play six games (Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Monday) in ten nights.

The Maple Leafs had a full week off between their second game of the season and this Saturday’s tilt against the Calgary Flames.

With that in mind, look for backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to get his first start of the season either on Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets or Thursday against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins.

Most NHL coaches don’t like to mess with their lineup too much, especially when their team is winning. Wilson has proven in the past to go against the grain, often opting to make changes at the blink of an eye, often frustrating fans and players alike.

With Franson, Kadri and Gustavsson all waiting in the wings to get into the lineup Wilson will have some tough choices to make this week, but you can bet with the Buds playing so many games in ten nights changes are coming.

Until next time,

Peace!

 

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