MONTREAL – Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson sees Saturday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens as a test for rookie forward Mikhail Grabovski.
Not so much as a test of his fighting skills, but his ability to keep his head and concentrate on hockey amid controversy over his feud with Canadiens winger Sergei Kostitsyn.
Grabovski was a healthy scratch for Toronto’s last game against Buffalo on Wednesday, but he will be in the lineup against Montreal.
“Tonight will be a test for him mentally – if he can maintain his composure in this environment, with everything that’s going on,” said Wilson. “I expect that he can.
“Obviously, he’s not alone out there and I’m hoping his teammates are there to support him, to make sure that if he starts getting emotional and allows things to get to him, that his teammates can calm him down and point him in the right direction.”
Wilson added that he hopes nothing happens between the two Belarusian players, who nearly came to blows the last time the two teams met in January and who followed that up with a war of words.
There has been anticipation all week that the two may settle their differences on the ice.
“I didn’t speak with my coach, but I think he wants a fight with Sergei,” Grabovski said with a smile. “But it’s true, I need to play.
“He told me, ‘Focus on the game. Just play.”‘