Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri, best friends on and off the ice, have been playing together on a line almost nightly since 2015-16. Now that may all be coming to an end, though.
Leafs head coach Mike Babcock split up the pair during yesterday afternoon’s practice and confirmed to reporters afterwards that the two Leafs pugilists will skate apart when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. In fact, it looks like Babcock’s plan is the break up Komarov and Kadri for Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars, as well. But, don’t expect the experiment to last forever. Babcock admitted that he’ll likely pair Komaro and Kadri back together once the Leafs return back home from their brief road trip.
Leafs fans, eager for a change amidst the team’s mini-slump, weren’t happy when they heard about Babcock’s plan for an ACC reunion between Komarov and Kadri.
Are we really surprised by this move though? Babcock has shown, if nothing else, that he likes to go with what he knows. The Komarov/Kadri duo hasn’t been particularly effective for the month of January, but it still provides the head coach with a sense of certainty. You know what you’ll get from those two together on a nightly basis… or at least you used to.
So, how do things shake down then? Kadri remains in his current spot as the team’s 2nd line center, while Komarov moves down to a 4th line spot. Sophomore Mitch Marner moves up in the lineup to play alongside Kadri and veteran Patrick Marleau. Interestingly enough Komarov slides into Matt Martin’s spot on the 4th line, who will likely sit in the press box for tonight’s matchup.
To be honest, that’s some real balance amongst the Leafs lines. Each line has some scoring puck and that 4th line has more bite than you might expect. Rookie Kasperi Kapanen has all the makings of a young Komarov, so it’ll be interesting to see how the two Finns complement each other on the ice.
Yesterday’s AHL call-up Rinat Valiev, a 22-year-old Russian defenceman, is expected to watch the game from the press box, as well.
Puck drop is tonight at 8pm ET in Chicago! Go, Leafs, go!