TORONTO — Roman Polak doesn’t know what the future holds, but on Saturday night he was happy to be back in game action. Five months since breaking his leg, Polak made his pre-season debut in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Ricoh Coliseum.
"I was excited, I didn’t play since April so I was excited to go out there and play a game with the boys," said Polak.
Matt Lorito scored in regulation time and again in the shootout as the Red Wings concluded the pre-season with a 3-4-1 record.
Lorito faked to the backhand and beat Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney for the winner in the second round of the shootout.
He also scored late in the third period for Detroit while 2017 first-rounder Michael Rasmussen had the other goal for the Red Wings. Peter Mrazek started in net and made 20 saves before being relieved by Jared Coreau midway through the second period. Coreau stopped 15 shots.
Saturday was Polak’s first game since breaking his left leg on April 15 during Game 2 of the Leafs first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals.
"Everything is fine," said Polak. "I was working hard during the summer and during the training camp. Like I said, I’m going to be playing when I’m feeling good and I’m feeling good so that’s why we decided I’m going to play this last game."
The veteran defenceman, who is at Leafs camp on a professional tryout agreement, spent much of the night partnered with Vincent LoVerde.
"Good for Polie to be out there," said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. "I think he was excited, we were excited to see him and obviously he’s an NHL player who wants to play in the National Hockey League.
"The first thing was just getting yourself healthy enough to do that and it looks like he’s at that point. He’s a free agent right now so he’s available to all the teams and we’ll see what happens."
The 31-year-old has spent parts of the past three seasons with the Leafs, but hasn’t received word from the club on where he stands with respect to a contract for the upcoming season.
Toronto currently has three contracts available before they reach the league maximum of 50. If Saturday was any indication, with Polak wearing an ‘A’ on his jersey, the Leafs are high on the veteran blue liner.
"I have no idea," said Polak of his contract status. "I’m still on the PTO here so I don’t know."
Lorito briefly gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead beating McElhinney short side for his second of the pre-season with 2:51 remaining in the third.
Dermott responded for the Leafs with 1:06 remaining, beating a screened Coreau from the point for his first of the pre-season.
Fehr got the Leafs on the board at 8:31 of the first period, re-directing a LoVerde point shot past Mrazek for his first goal of the pre-season.
Rasmussen tied it 1-1 with 31-seconds remaining in the second, on a power play, as his shot re-directed off a Leafs defenceman and past McElhinney for his fourth of the pre-season.
Toronto now has a little over two days to trim its roster down to 23 skaters and get cap compliant by Tuesday’s deadline.
"Lou (Lamoriello) and I will get together at noon (on Sunday) now and we’ll go through what’s happened at camp," said Babcock. "We’ll do our best to make the decisions so we can make those announcements on Monday.
The Maple Leafs open the regular season on Wednesday night in Winnipeg against the Jets.