Any time a player faces his old team there’s a little extra incentive. But when that old opponent is the Toronto Maple Leafs and the venue is the Air Canada Centre the emotions get jacked up even more.
Jut ask Capitals right wing Joey Crabb, who tonight will be returning to Toronto for the first time since the Leafs declined to re-sign him last summer after two years of splitting time between the Leafs and the AHL Toronto Marlies.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Crabb said. “It will be fun play against the old team and to get a couple of points from them.”
The Caps are in desperate need of them. Six games into the season they sit in 14th place in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record, one point ahead of the last-place Florida Panthers [1-5-0].
The Leafs enter the game with a 3-3-0 mark under new general manager David Nonis, who replaced Brian Burke shortly after the end of the NHL lockout. The Leafs are led by 22-year-old center Nazim Kadri with three goals and three assists.
Few would have expected when Crabb left the Maple Leafs that he would wind up on the Capitals’ top line with Alex Ovechkin and Jay Beagle. Known for being a tenacious grinder and penalty killer, Crabb has spent most of the last three games alongside Ovechkin and Beagle, but the trio is still looking for its first even-strength goal.
“I thought we’ve played well together, Crabb said. “We’ve gotten chances but just not buried and capitalized on those chances. … We’ve had some hard work out there and it’s been good.”
Crabb said playing alongside Ovechkin means playing against some of the league’s toughest checkers.
“And they’re going to play you pretty tight in their defense, so I guess it goes both ways.”
Crabb said he enjoys the excitement of playing in Toronto, where he totaled 14 goals and 41 points in 115 games for the Maple Leafs and 18 goals and 33 points in 43 games for the Marlies
“Back when I played in Atlanta, I remember going up there and it was a lot of fun, there was a lot of energy, the fans are great and it just seemed like a big deal any time you’d play there,” he said. “So yeah, it will be different now when I go back as a visiting player again.”