BUFFALO — The latest shuffle on the Toronto Maple Leafs revolving blue-line came as a result of a freak eye injury to veteran Mike Komisarek.
However, coach Randy Carlyle was reluctant to disclose exactly what happened at the end of Monday’s practice to sideline Komisarek. The blue-liner was apparently struck with a piece of fiberglass — possibly from a stick — and it required a doctor to give him a suture before stitching up one of his eyes.
“It was one of those things that you’d like to take back in your life I think, when you do something stupid,” Carlyle said before Tuesday’s game against Buffalo. “It was crazy.”
Even though doctors actually cleared Komisarek to play, Carlyle and the coaching staff elected to keep him off the ice as a precaution. Based on the morning skate, it also appeared as if Jake Gardiner would be a healthy scratch after returning from a one-game stint in the American Hockey League.
The 22-year-old defenceman struggled in his first two games of the season last week — a win over Pittsburgh and a loss to the New York Islanders. He still appears to be finding his groove after missing more than six weeks due to a concussion suffered in the AHL.
“Anybody who spends that amount of time away from the game is going to take time to get their skills back and their feet back underneath them,” said Carlyle. “The display of his play in the two games, we felt we were doing him an injustice and the hockey club (by having him out there).”
Cody Franson appeared ready to draw back in the lineup.
The Leafs will be looking to spread the ice time more evenly among their defence after seeing captain Dion Phaneuf (32:38) and Mike Kostka (31:33) play more than half of Saturday’s game at Madison Square Garden.
As for Komisarek, it sounds like his pride will be more wounded than anything else after suffering the bizarre injury. However, he probably had a scary moment or two after getting a piece of fiberglass caught in his eye on Monday.
“Any time you get stitches in the eye (it’s uncomfortable),” said Carlyle.
A look at the Leafs ahead of Game 6:
Kostka might be a 27-year-old NHL rookie for the Maple Leafs, but he has some familiarity with First Niagara Center.
After graduating from UMass-Amherst in 2008, Kostka spent two seasons playing for Buffalo’s American Hockey League affiliate in Portland. He even experienced his first NHL action as a member of the Sabres during a home pre-season game against Washington a few years back.
“(The Capitals) didn’t have too many of their big guns in — it was one of the first exhibition games — but still it was my first taste of NHL hockey so it’s something that I’ll never forget,” said Kostka.
He didn’t end up keeping any mementos from his brief time with the Sabres, but has vowed to grab a puck from every building he plays in now that he is a full-time member of the Leafs.
“Ultimately, it’s the memories you keep, but I’m sure down the road those things will help bring back those memories,” said Kostka.
That will include one from First Niagara Center, where Buffalo has won 11 of 12 games against Toronto over the last four years. The sole Leafs victory during that stretch came on Feb. 16, 2011, when James Reimer backstopped them to a 2-1 victory.
Reimer is expected to get the start over Ben Scrivens on Tuesday night.
PROJECTED LEAFS LINEUP
van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
McClement – Grabovski – Kulemin
Frattin – Kadri – Komarov
Brown – Steckel – Orr
Phaneuf – Kostka
Liles – Fraser
Gunnarsson – Franson
MacArthur (injured), Komisarek (injured), Gardiner.
PROJECTED SABRES LINEUP
Vanek – Hodgson – Pominville
Foligno – Grigorenko – Hecht
Ott – Ennis – Stafford
Scott – Ellis – Kaleta
Leopold – Myers
Sekera – Ehrhoff
Brennan – Weber
Regehr (injured), Gerbe, Sulzer.
Buffalo announced that 18-year-old centre Mikhail Grigorenko will stick with the NHL team rather than be sent back to junior … Sabres leading scorer Thomas Vanek, who missed Sunday’s game in Washington with a muscle strain, is expected to play … Toronto has outscored opponents 6-3 in the first period of games this season. However, it has been outscored 9-4 in the third period … The Leafs penalty kill is 10th in the league at 84.2 per cent … Ryan Miller is 28-14-0 all-time against Toronto with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage … The Leafs will wear their third sweaters for the first time this season … There have been 170 coaching changes in the NHL since Lindy Ruff was named hired by Buffalo on July 21, 1997.
“We’ve talked at length about him for days now. … He’s earned this opportunity.” — Ruff on Grigorenko.
“It’s a rebound game and hopefully we can come out and put in a lot better effort than we did in New York.” — Leafs forward Tyler Bozak.
“They were the one team that came to me with a contract and gave me an option to play in the American league. I have a lot of good memories with this organization, but now I’m on the other side.” — Kostka on the Sabres.