The Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Arena to open the hockey season on Wednesday.
“Home opener is always an interesting game, there’s stuff going on, I think the home team is always a little bit antsy, I like to start on the road,” head coach Mike Babcock told reporters after morning skate. “But we’re starting at home and we have to play good.”
The Leafs are reportedly set to announce the team’s new captain prior to puck drop. Among the favourites for the coveted position are stars Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Morgan Reilly.
When asked at the press conference, Babcock refused to give any details on how the unveiling will play out.
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Matthews appeared to be the favourite for the historic captaincy, however, the past week, the all-star found himself in hot water when it surfaced that he was facing a charge of disorderly conduct and disruptive behaviour for an incident dating back to late May.
A police report obtained from the Scottsdale Police Department said the complaint was filed by a female security guard employed by a local condo building where she said Matthews is a resident. She said she was sitting in her locked car when a group of men, including Matthews, allegedly tried to get inside the car with her May 26.
She said she confronted the group, who she believed to be intoxicated, and during that interaction Matthews withdrew from the conversation and dropped his pants and grabbed his butt cheeks.
She said that Matthews kept his underwear on.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. Matthews was not arrested.
WATCH: ‘He owned it’: Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock on Auston Matthews Arizona arrest
When asked about the situation again on Wednesday, Babcock said Matthews has “owned” the situation and the second he did so, he could put it behind him.
“He owned it. That’s it. He’s done. You forgive yourself,” he said, adding it was an “unbelievable life experience” for Matthews.
“When we go through adversity, we never wanted the adversity when we’re in it. But when we get through it, we look back and say ‘hey that’s a building block in life.'”
Toronto begins the season fielding a team with 13-plus new players on the roster, with Nazem Kadri and Connor Brown being traded in the offseason, as well as Ron Hainsey and Patrick Marleau finding new teams.
Matthews, Tavares, Mitch Marner, Rielly and Frederik Andersen remain firmly entrenched in their starring roles.
READ MORE: New details emerge in Auston Matthews case
Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott remain sidelined due to injury.
Offseason free-agent acquisition and veteran Jason Spezza was announced as a healthy scratch ahead of the game. The forward would have been facing his old team in the Senators, whom he played for for 10 season from 2002-2014.
“We’re just giving Spezza a little more time on the penalty kill,” Babcock said. “We need him to do that. He’ll be in next game, but this buys him more time, more reps.”
Babcock said he talked to Spezza and they’re both on the same page.
The 36-year-old Toronto native signed with the Maple Leafs for the NHL minimum US$700,000 this off-season.
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“We’ve got a lot of new players, lots of new guys,” Matthews said Tuesday. “We have a new look to the team, I guess you could say, but every year you come in and there’s new faces, new guys that add different things to the squad.
Expectations for playoff success is at an all-time high for the leafs as the team has been bounced from the playoffs in the first round of the playoffs the last two season by the Boston Bruins.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.
—With files from The Canadian Press