The letter C will draw plenty of attention on Thursday night in Toronto.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens renew their rivalry at the Air Canada Centre, both teams will be entrusting leadership duties to new faces.
When Dion Phaneuf steps onto the ice in the blue and white jersey for the Leafs’ first regular season game of 2010, he will officially begin his career as the 18th captain in franchise history.
Brian Gionta will suit up for the bleu blanc et rouge and become the 28th player to wear the letter of leadership for the storied franchise when his skates hit the ice surface.
The 31-year-old began to solidify his position with a good post-season during the Habs’ run to the Eastern Conference finals last year.
“The way he led our group, to me, it became obvious that he was the captain,” Canadiens’ head coach Jacques Martin told Yahoo.
Commanding the Canadiens’ roster is exactly what the Rochester native will have to do on Thursday night as they will be without the services of several key players.
Mike Cammalleri, who led the team with 13 post-season goals last year, will be serving a one-game suspension resulting from a pre-season slashing of Nino Niederraiter.
In his place? Lars Eller.
It will be a chance for the centerpiece of the deal that sent goalie Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues to make his mark and flank the top line beside Tomas Plekanec.
Halak’s former teammate, Carey Price, is also a question mark as he has come down with the flu and that may leave Alex Auld to handle the netminding duties.
Defensive stalwart Andrei Markov will also be out of the line-up as he recovers from knee surgery. Veteran Roman Hamrlik’s knee is also giving him trouble and he won’t suit up either.
Leafs looking for new results
With Phaneuf at the helm, the Toronto blue-line will anchor the alternate captaincy as well. Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin will team up to wear the A, re-iterating Brian Burke’s defence-first philosophy.
For the first time in several years, Tomas Kaberle’s sweater won’t have anything more than the Leafs’ logo on the front.
Strong leadership may very well be a core component for Toronto to be successful as well, with plenty of new faces ready to make their regular season debuts with the Buds.
Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, Clarke MacArthur and Tim Brent will be looked upon to contribute offensively, and re-vamp what was a futile power play last year.
The Leafs were laughable with the man advantage, converting on just 13.97 per cent of their opportunities.
Toronto’s crease will be tended by veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and he’ll have to be solid if the home team hopes to come up on the positive side of the win column.
Either way, both squads will have a new look come puck drop and their off-season tinkering will be put to the test.