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Sweet Jesus. Hockey is finally back. Finally the focus can move back to the ice as the Leafs host the Bruins in the now annual Coca-Cola "Zero Fans" First Game. Yes, I got that correct. Some people want to have you believe that this is some massive outreach program by the Leafs and that they are showing that they have a heart. To those people I ask "are you shitting me?" Aside from the fact that they lose no ticket revenue, still charge obscene amounts of money for the concessions, AND that they add to their million person contact list (seriously, that is what Richard Peddie is most proud of in that brutal book I have to review) I guess it's nice that the team does their best to ensure that true fans get tickets to the game. I mean, sure they make you give them every scrap of information in order to qualify for their draws and you have to buy tonnes of sponsor's products but it's just like going for free!

Well, not quite all of them have managed to avoid landing in the hands of scalpers. I'd appreciate anyone walking down letting me know if Soprano and friends are out in full force or if Toronto's finest is doing their job. Anyway, enough of the Debbie Downer routine. The important part is that hockey, albeit in a watered down form is back. And who is playing? Find out after the jump!

First off, did you know that there is a rule about how many veteran players must be dressed per game? This is actually comforting news since I only managed to finangle tickets to two exhibition games and no regular season games. Look at me Feschuk! I'm not really part of the problem!

As per NHL rules, the Leafs must dress at least 10 NHL veterans to give fans their money's worth, even though tonight's game is free, with Kadri counted in that group. Teams also can agree before the game to add or subtract the balance of veterans and rookies.

Thanks to HFBoards for being great at finding information quickly.

Update: From The Official Site gives us tonight's lines for the Heroes:

Vesa Toskala
Joey MacDonald

Jeff Finger - Francois Beauchemin
Garnet Exelby - Ian White
Phil Oreskovic - Jonas Frogren

Andre Deveaux - John Mitchell - Jay Rosehill
Nikolai Kulemin - Jason Allison - Jiri Tlusty
Wayne Primeau - Nazem Kadri - Colton Orr
Viktor Stalberg - Tyler Bozak - Christian Hanson

While the Bruins reply (via some reporter named Bish) with:

Steve Begin, Patrice Bergeron, Drew Larman, Jeff LoVecchio, Michael Ryder, Shawn Thornton, Derek Morris, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman and Andy Wozniewski are participating in morning skate. Tuukka Rask and Dany Sabourin are in goal.

Add Jamie Arniel, Byron Bitz, Guillaume Lefebvre, Brad Marchand, Vladimir Sobotka, Blake Wheeler, Matt Hunwick, and Adam McQuaid and you have tonight's roster.

Finally! Andy "Are you shitting me?" Wozniewski returns to Toronto! Dear God, I can't believe that I am missing this game. Not only will our young forwards gain a lot of confidence by flying past Wozniewski but Ron Wilson has banned fighting at training camp meaning that Deveaux, Orr, Oreskovic, and Exelby are as primed to scrap as one Michael Vick's dogs. Last night I set the line on fights tonight at 2.5 but I think that's going to be low and I'd definitely take the over.

I don't put too much stock in preseason games because the Leafs, from memory alone, are traditionally horrible. Even when the team was good. The last few years though might indicate that the preseaon is a predictor of things:

  • 2008-2009: 2-5-2
  • 2007-2008: 3-3-2
  • 2006-2007: 0-3-1 and four game results are somehow missing from the Maple Leafs' website
  • 2005-2006: 4-4-0

So...uhhhh...I guess this game is important now?