Phil Kessel's ice-time cut raises questions | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaPhil Kessel's ice-time cut raises questions

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2013 | 01:05 PM

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Phil Kessel has seen his ice time reduced significantly in the last three games, but the Leafs insist the high-scoring forward is not injured. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Phil Kessel has seen his ice time reduced significantly in the last three games, but the Leafs insist the high-scoring forward is not injured. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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The Maple Leafs insist Phil Kessel is 100 per cent healthy even though there are suspicions he has a nagging wrist injury. Kessel has seen fewer than 16 minutes of ice time in each of the past three games. His season average is 18:57.
Something is up with the Toronto Maple Leafs' leading scorer, Phil Kessel.

The team insists Kessel is 100 per cent healthy even though there are suspicions he has a nagging wrist injury.

Kessel has seen fewer than 16 minutes of ice time in each of the past three games. His season average is 18:57.

Could it be that his lack of commitment to defensive play is finally getting to Randy Carlyle, and the coach has decided to use him only in offensive situations? Kessel will never compete for the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL, but he needs to show a little more determination in his own zone in terms of getting the puck out.

Carlyle was not made available to the media at Friday's practice.

Grabo back in town

The Maple Leafs may want to pay special attention to Mikhail Grabovski when they host Washington on Saturday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:30 p.m. ET).

When Grabo played for Toronto, he saved some of his best and most determined performances for his former team, the Montreal Canadiens. Now that he has shifted to Washington after the Maple Leafs chose to re-sign Tyler Bozak over him, he will want to prove they made a mistake.

Grabovski ranks third on the Caps in both goals (seven) and points (18) in 22 games. That includes a three-goal, four-point night in the first game of the season.

Upon signing with Washington after being bought out by the Maple Leafs, Grabovski made no attempt to hide his displeasure with the way Carlyle deployed him in Toronto. The interesting thing is he averaged 15:34 of ice time per game last season with the Leafs and is getting just 15:40 with the Capitals this year.

His Russian pal, Nikolai Kulemin, said Grabovski was shocked at being bought out by the Maple Leafs.

"He was in a hard situation," Kulemin said. "He was getting married the next day and I think he was a little nervous."

"He'll probably play harder against us than any other team," Kulemin said.

Asked if he's ready to hit Grabovski if the opportunity presents itself, Kulemin added, "Sure."

Bozak on the mend

Bozak was one of only three Maple Leafs who skated Friday morning at MasterCard Centre. He has been out of the lineup with a hamstring injury, and after about 25 minutes he left the ice and seemed to be in some discomfort.

Afterwards he insisted he had not re-injured himself even though he has suggested he is still in pain.

"It's all good," Bozak said. "It was just a little bit of a hard skate. I wasn't too happy with that, but it is needed. Hopefully I'll feel good tomorrow morning and we'll go from there."

Bozak said he will continue to get treatment for the injury during the day and again in the evening as well as before Saturday's morning skate.

"Hopefully it all works out well and I can get back in tomorrow night," he said.

That said, he also doesn't want to rush back into the lineup if it means the injury will continue to bother him.

"You get anxious to get back, but you have to realize it's a long season," he said. "There's a ton of hockey still left to be played so you don't want to push yourself back too early and tweak something or even not be able to play to your ability and hold the team back a bit."

Bozak, by the way, is from Regina and is going with the Roughriders all the way in Sunday's Grey Cup game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in his hometown.

"Riders are winning 100 per cent," Bozak said. "I think they have a pretty good home advantage. The fan support has been amazing and it's great for the city. I'm hoping for a Riders win."

Holland on a high

Centre Peter Holland got lots of phone calls and tweets from friends and family after scoring his first goal as a Maple Leaf in Thursday's home loss to Nashville.

"My friends and family were pretty excited for me, and it matches right up there with my first NHL goal," Holland said.

Holland was traded to the Maple Leafs by the Anaheim Ducks. The six-foot-two, 195-pound Toronto native was the Ducks' first pick in 2009, chosen 15th overall. He had five goals and seven points in 29 games with Anaheim and has been pressed into action because of the injuries to Bozak and David Bolland.

Holland joked that Maple Leafs jerseys with his name on the back are starting to fly off the shelves, but added, "It'll mean a lot more when people not related to me start buying them."

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