TORONTO – A move to left wing seems to agree with Nazem Kadri.
The former Ontario Hockey League star scored twice and added two assists in the Toronto Marlies’ 5-2 win over the Oklahoma City Barons in American Hockey League play Saturday.
Joey Crabb also had two goals for the Marlies (2-3-0), who earned their first home win of the season. Justin Hodgman rounded out Toronto’s scoring.
Kadri practised over the week at left wing alongside Brayden Irwin and Crabb, and the line clicked against the Barons with 10 points between them.
“We found some good chemistry there,” Kadri said. “It was a good night for us, but not every night is going to be like that. We’re going to have to find other ways to score, but for tonight we’ll take the W.”
Kadri’s natural position is centre, but coach Dallas Eakins likes him on the left side.
“He’s played his best games on the wing,” Eakins said. “It takes a bit of pressure off him…so we’re going to go with him on the wing. Obviously, it’s clicking right now.”
James Reimer was solid in net making 31 saves for his second win of the year. Bryan Pitton stopped 28 in just his second start for the Barons (3-4-1).
After Liam Reddox opened the scoring for the Barons in the first period, Kadri tied the game on a slick solo effort. Kadri took a pass from Irwin inside the Barons’ blue-line, slipped the puck through defenceman Jeff Petry’s legs, deked Pitton to his glove side and backhanded it past him up high.
“Irwin did a great job finding me and hitting me in full stride,” Kadri said. “There was one guy standing flat-footed, so I just pulled a little toe drag to get around him and made a nice finish.”
The goal showed off the offensive talent that made Kadri the Leafs’ 2009 first-round pick.
“Those are things that you can’t teach a player,” Eakins said. “Suddenly, it’s on his stick, he’s through a D-man, around their goalie and everybody’s on their feet. He’s going to end up with goals like that on a lot of nights.”
Kadri made it 2-1 for the Marlies early in the second on a play off a faceoff. Irwin won the draw and got it back to Kadri who snapped a wrist shot over Pitton’s right shoulder.
Kadri was in on Toronto’s third goal as well midway through the period. The 20-year-old slipped a backhand pass from behind the net to Crabb, who quickly snapped it past Pitton from the top of the crease.
The Barons cut the lead to 3-2 when Linus Omark snapped a wrist shot past Reimer less than two minutes into the third. But Hodgman restored the lead just over a minute later with his first of the season on a nice pass from Alex Foster.
Crabb finished off the scoring with his second of the game at 16:24 after Kadri fed him a nice cross-ice pass.
Kadri’s four points give him seven in five games with the Marlies.
The game saw Ben Ondrus make his return to Toronto after signing with Oklahoma in the off-season. The former captain remains the Marlies all-time leader in games played (254) and is ranked third all-time in penalty minutes (316).
The Marlies started the year without naming a captain before giving the ‘C’ to Foster on Friday.
“He leads by example,” Eakins said. “You know every night that he’s going to give you absolutely everything that he has, and the other players feed off of that.
“I can’t say enough about Alex Foster. He’s going to be a big, big part of our team.”
Both teams are in action Sunday. Toronto host the Grand Rapids Griffins, while Oklahoma travels to Hamilton to take on the Bulldogs for their third game in three days.
Notes: Oklahoma’s Shawn Belle went into the game tied for second among defencemen in points with seven. … The Marlies are 21 for 24 on the penalty kill for the season. … Reimer has been in goal for both Marlies wins this season. … The announced attendance was 2,046.