TORONTO — For some, it might have seemed like the kiss of death. Ryan Hamilton took it as a sign that he was do something right.
When the 27-year-old forward was named captain of the Toronto Marlies by coach Dallas Eakins in October 2011, he refused to believe that it meant he was stuck in the American Hockey League for good.
That has proven to be the case as the Maple Leafs called up Hamilton for a second time on Thursday morning and were expected to use him against Washington later in the evening.
Clearly, the captaincy hasn’t held him back.
“It’s an honour and privilege to wear a ‘C’ on any sports teams, whatever it is, representing your teammates and the organization,” said Hamilton. “I’m just glad to be able to have an opportunity to play here. I’m just going to try to make the most of it.”
The native of Oshawa, Ont., got into his first two NHL games last March — appearing on back-to-back nights for a Leafs team that was playing out the stretch. He managed an assist in his debut against the New Jersey Devils.
Hamilton is currently filling in for the injured Mike Brown (shoulder) and was slotted in on the fourth line alongside David Steckel and Colton Orr. However, he might get moved up depending on how the game plays out.
“We wouldn’t be afraid to put him higher in the lineup,” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said.
It’s an exciting chance for a player who has 431 games of AHL experience on his resume. Hamilton’s skating has held him back from the NHL at times but Carlyle indicated that the player has seemed to find another gear.
Hamilton is expecting many family and friends to make the trip to Toronto for the game Thursday.
“I’m sure the adrenaline’s going to be flowing pretty good when I get to the rink,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be exciting to play at the ACC against a team like Washington. You’ve just got to try to stay in the moment and that’s what I’m going to try and do.”
All the Leafs are expecting from him is a good honest effort whenever he is sent over the boards. That’s essentially what got him here.
“He’s worked diligently not only this year, but last year,” Carlyle said. “He represents a lot of things that are positives in what we would like out of our players: Very committed athlete, very low maintenance, does what he’s asked. No complaints, no excuses.
“He just goes out and works and earns the respect of his teammates and his coaching staff.”
A look at the Leafs (3-3-0) ahead of Game 7:
Clarke MacArthur had no idea that an injury to his pinky could cause so much pain.
The winger lost the bottom half of that fingernail on his left hand and suffered a huge gash after being hit with a shot while playing against the New York Rangers on Saturday night. The wound went deep enough to expose his bone and will keep him out of a second straight game on Thursday.
“If it was just the nail I could deal with that,” MacArthur said.
The nature of the injury is particularly frustrating. The only hint anything is wrong comes from a bandage on MacArthur’s left pinky and some extra padding the trainers affixed to the outside of his glove.
There is no clear timeline for his return to the lineup.
“We’ll just see how it goes tomorrow,” MacArthur said. “Once I got past those first three days, it was a little better this morning. All of the swelling and stuff has gone down.
“But it’s sore.”
James Reimer was expected to make his third straight start in goal for Toronto against the Capitals. Meanwhile, the team claimed 25-year-old winger Frazer McLaren off waivers from San Jose on Thursday.
PROJECTED LEAFS LINEUP
van Riemsdyk – Bozak – Kessel
McClement – Grabovski – Kulemin
Frattin – Kadri – Komarov
Steckel – Hamilton – Orr
Phaneuf – Kostka
Gunnarsson – Liles
Fraser – Franson
MacArthur (injured), Brown (injured), Komisarek.
PROJECTED CAPITALS LINEUP
Ovechkin – Beagle – Crabb
Wolski – Backstrom – Brouwer
Chimera – Ribeiro – Ward
Hendricks – Johansson – Fehr
Alzner – Green
Erskine – Carlson
Schultz – Kundratek
Laich (injured), Poti, Hamrlik, Perreault.
Washington took three of four meetings between the teams last season … Alex Ovechkin has just one goal so far for the Caps … There are no rookies on Washington’s roster … Toronto’s Mike Brown is expected to miss a week with a shoulder sprain … Mike Komisarek will be a healthy scratch for the Leafs after suffering a weird eye injury in practice on Monday. He ended up with a piece of graphite in his right eye after smashing a stick in frustration … Toronto sits third overall in the NHL with seven fighting majors … Defenceman Mike Green has led Washington in ice time every game this season … Dion Phaneuf and Mike Kostka are a team-worst minus-7 for the Leafs … Nicklas Backstrom, taken fourth overall by Washington in 2006, leads that draft class with 370 career points. Phil Kessel was drafted one spot behind him and is third with 330 points … Brooks Laich took part in the Capitals skate. He’s making his way back from a groin injury.
“Scorers are going to score.” — Leafs coach Randy Carlyle when asked about Phil Kessel’s goal drought.
“He’s a powerhouse of a player. He has so many strengths.” — Leafs defenceman Mark Fraser on Capitals star Alex Ovechkin.
“Two points is not good enough for me. It’s my (fault) that I’m not scoring goals or making plays. I have to be better.” — Ovechkin on his play.