Dave Nonis said that he expected Tyler Bozak to be on the ice and ready for Game One, but he didn’t practice with the team today. Mikhail Grabovski spent time between Joffrey Lupul and Nik Kulemin on the second line with Nazem Kadri with Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk on the first.
Steve Simmons, of all people, noted that Grabovski was staying out for extra faceoff practice.
So maybe there’s a disconnect between what the Leafs are preparing for in Game One and what the Leafs are saying. Elliotte Friedman was on the Canucks Army podcast last night and did note that you can’t trust teams at this time in the season to be entirely truthful and up front when it comes to injuries.
Bozak has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, which could be a bruised this, a strained that, or a broken something:
Carlyle wasn’t able to shed much light on Bozak’s status — “Actually, I haven’t seen him,” he said — and that’s exactly the way the situation is likely to remain. Information tends to be scarce around NHL teams in the spring.
The exact cause of the injury isn’t even known, although a good candidate seems to be a series of three hard bodychecks Bozak took from Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Radko Gudas in his second-last shift of Wednesday’s game.
The following night, Nazem Kadri was called on to fill his spot with a newly created top unit that included Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. The results were quick to come. They accounted for a pair of goals in a victory over the Florida Panthers.
In the interest of completeness I re-watched that Bozak shift. It ran an impressive 1:52 in length.
Here are the hits in question. They’re all on the far boards. Note seven seconds elapse between hits 1 and 2:
The last shift played by Bozak resulted in him being tied up after a faceoff by Steven Stamkos that Lupul eventually won for Bozak, and a lost draw to Vincent Lecavalier and a failure by the Leafs to set up in the offensive zone. I’m not going to dwell on two not-cleanly-won faceoffs as an indication that Bozak is hurt.
That said, the first two hits Gudas laid on Bozak were pretty vicious (the first might look like it lands right under Bozak’s chin) and the third and fourth collisions can probably be more accurately described as “giving him the business” than anything hockey offers in its absurd lexicon.
So Bozak’s not back practicing. It’s unlikely we’ll know exactly what’s wrong with him until either a) he’s shut down or b) the Leafs exit the playoffs. Players in the post-season do like to play when they aren’t fully healthy and sometimes playing injured means that you won’t be able to contribute as much as the next guy on the depth chart.
It’s going to be new territory for Randy Carlyle, who has banked heavily on Bozak this season as his top face-off man at both ends of the ice and in Carlyle’s perfect world I presume, Bozak is the player who will match right up against Patrice Bergeron for the Boston Bruins.
Although there are some people who do question Bozak’s value to the team:
Tyler Bozak against the Bruins this season went 35-77 in the faceoff dot (45.4%). Not as valuable as people think he is.
— Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) April 29, 2013
We may have to wait until Game One, but the indication here is that it’s not good for Tyler, and Leaf fans may get a sneak preview of next year’s team sans-Tyler in the first game or two of the series with Kadri on the top line instead of the well-coiffed Bozak.