TORONTO – Training camp isn’t yet a week old and Randy Carlyle has already lit into his players.
The Toronto Maple Leafs coach clearly wasn’t pleased with the quality of Monday’s morning skate prior to an exhibition game against the Philadelphia Flyers and he hinted afterwards that some of his experienced players might be called on more than they would like in pre-season if things didn’t change.
“The way the practice went this morning maybe (they’ll play) them all,” Carlyle said. “We have to get ready. I know what it’s like as a veteran player – training camp is not a lot of fun – but the reality is our preparation has to get to a higher level for Oct. 1, for our first game. That’s where our focus is.
“If they have to play every game from here on out then that’s what we’ll do.”
Toronto is scheduled to play eight pre-season games – the most allowed under the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement – before the regular season starts Oct. 1 in Montreal.
Among the veterans expected to dress on Monday night were Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Jake Gardiner, James van Riemsdyk and David Clarkson, who was scheduled to appear for his hometown team for the first time since signing a seven-year, $36.75 million contract in July.
Jonathan Bernier is tabbed to make his first ever start in net for Toronto.
The 29-year-old Clarkson has found the opening days of this training camp to be more demanding than others he’s experienced in the past but he understands what Carlyle is trying to accomplish.
“He’s not asking us to do anything unreasonable,” Clarkson said.
Meanwhile, the Leafs are battling the injury bug with tough guy Frazer McLaren having suffered a fractured pinky finger on his right hand after taking a slash from Carter Ashton in a scrimmage over the weekend.
The forward is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season, which would open up another job to be won at camp.
“(The finger) will be immobilized for at least two weeks to let the healing process start,” Carlyle said.
The Leafs took their pre-season opener 4-3 over the Flyers in London, Ont., on Sunday night and Carlyle tabbed three players who were part of that win to play again on Monday: winger Troy Bodie and defencemen Morgan Rielly and Andrew MacWilliam.
They each should view the extra action as a positive thing.
“We try to make sure that there’s a merit system in place,” Carlyle said. “If the player plays well then he earns another opportunity.”