John-Michael Liles didn’t have to wait long to face his former team.
Eight days ago, wearing a tuque and eye black, Liles walked off the ice at Michigan Stadium as a Toronto Maple Leaf. An hour or so later, it was announced that he had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, along with defensive prospect Dennis Robertson, for defenseman Tim Gleason.
Today, Liles and Gleason are dressing in opposite locker rooms.
“I’ll just go out and play like it’s another game. That’s how I’m treating it. It’s part of the business, and it’s what we do,” Liles said. “You try to put it behind you as quickly as possible, I think.”
“(Gleason) was here long before I was. He’s a very classy guy who’s done a lot for this organization on and off the ice, a lot of things people aren’t aware of, charity-wise,” Muller said. “When you give an ‘A’ to a guy, it obviously means he’s a leader, and he brought that.”
It was ultimately a trade that made sense for both the Canes and the Leafs and gave fresh starts to two veteran defensemen.
“John was a player that we were looking for to add to our back end there. We consider ourselves more of a puck-moving team, and we want to move it quick out of our zone. John is a veteran guy. We’ve got three good, young guys back on the point, so he brings some experience. And we needed some help on the power play, and he’s had some good experience of running a power play,” Muller said. “It was just a couple needs for our hockey club, and we thought he fit the bill.
“For Gleas, the way Toronto plays is more suited to his style,” Muller said.
And Gleason will probably look to bang a body early tonight to get settled into the game.
“I’m sure. That’s his style,” Muller said, smiling. “That’s the fun thing about the game. When the game starts, you forget who knows who. I’m sure he’ll be nervous as well, coming back so quickly playing in a rink where he’s played so long.”
While this will be Gleason’s road debut in the Leafs’ blue and white, Liles has already skated on PNC Arena ice with the Canes, in addition to two road games last week.
In three games since the trade, Liles is a plus-5 and has logged 15:26 of average ice time per game.
“It’s a different atmosphere and a different attitude in the room, but you’re going to have that when you go from two different organizations,” Liles said. “It’s been a nice feeling in the room, and that’s how it goes. When you’re winning, the atmosphere in the room is a little better.”
It’s been a welcoming atmosphere for Liles, as well, as he received a text from former Leaf Mike Komisarek on the day of the trade. Before recently moving into a Raleigh apartment, Liles and his wife took up residence with the Komisareks
“He’s been great, just giving me the rundown on everything down here and just telling me that I’m going to love it. So far, it’s been great,” Liles said. “The guys in the room have been fantastic. I’ve had the chance to go to dinner a few times with guys, and it’s been great. I’m starting to get settled down here in Raleigh and enjoying it so far.”
In lineup notes, Anton Khudobin was in the starter’s crease during the morning skate and was first off the ice for the team, so look for him to make his fourth consecutive start in net. He’s 5-0-0 on the season with a 1.99 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage.
“I think his record speaks for itself. He’s played very well, and he’s focused,” Muller said. “He’s well-rested, so we’ve been able to run with him right now.”
Defenseman Ron Hainsey will be a game-time decision, Muller said. Hainsey skated in yesterday’s brief afternoon practice but was not on the ice with the team this morning. He’s a bit “under the weather,” according to Muller.
The Hurricanes will look to extend their season-long four-game winning streak when they close out their three-game season series with the Leafs, who have lost their last two games.
“There are no easy games and no easy opponent, whether they’re winning or losing,” Muller said. “Everyone is battling every night, and we have nice momentum.”
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