TORONTO - Nazem Kadri played fewer than 10 minutes during Saturday's win in Montreal - 9:53 to be exact - but the Toronto Maple Leafs centre had no problem with how he was used.
"After the game I wouldn't have guessed I played only 10 minutes," said Kadri, who made the most of his ice time scoring a goal, registering four hits, drawing a penalty and taking one as well en route to being named the game's first star. "It really didn't feel like 10 minutes. It felt like more for some reason. But I know he's going to reward me the times I play good and I just got to make sure I'm ready to make the most of the opportunity."
The "he" Kadri refers to is head coach Randy Carlyle, who admitted after the game he would have liked to get the 22-year-old more shifts.
"He told me that, but sometimes it's just how the game works," said Kadri, who played 51 NHL games during the previous three campaigns, but never started a season with the Leafs.
After Saturday's game, Kadri spoke about how nice it was to have a coach that trusts him.
"Whenever you have a coach that believes in you, puts you in areas where you can succeed, it just gives you all the confidence in the world," he said.
THE GREAT COMMUNICATOR
Carlyle took over behind the bench last February replacing the fired Ron Wilson and perhaps no Leaf is more excited about the way the new boss handles things than Kadri. Carlyle addresses his team after games and some pre-game skates so everyone is on the same page while Wilson rarely did that.
During training camp, Carlyle called rookie defenceman Morgan Rielly in for a chat to see how he was feeling and tried to get him to relax. Last Friday, Carlyle called over his goalies after a practice to lay out the plan moving forward. On Monday morning, he called over Mike Komisarek and Cody Franson for a talk. It's expected the two defencemen will sit out against the Buffalo Sabres as Carlyle looks to get Mark Fraser and Korbinian Holzer into a game.
The lines of communication are wide open.
"I know for a fact that's how players like it," said Kadri. "The players don't like being shunned out and left in the dark and not really know what's going on. Everything Randy does there's an explanation for it, there's a reason for it and every single guy in this room is going to know that reason whereas before it was the complete opposite. You'd have guys asking each other what was going on so it's a different situation."
BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
Kadri noticed early on that Carlyle was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
"It started last year when he was throwing me into those opportune situations that before I wouldn't even get a sniff at," the London, Ont. native said. "Even last game you could see that I was playing the last minutes of the period, last minutes of the game whereas before maybe they thought I wasn't capable of that when I really was. Just that faith, that belief that I can get job done, that's what helps get me through it."
And while Wilson would often chastise reporters for praising young players - he most famously accused media of wanting to build a "statue" for James Reimer after the goalie started playing well a couple seasons ago - Carlyle is not afraid to compliment Kadri when it's warranted. He called the 2009 first-round pick one of the top offensive performers at training camp.
"He talks to me, you know, he acknowledges when I play good and when I make good plays whereas before I didn't really get that at all," said Kadri. "It's just nice to have someone tell you, especially a head coach, that you're doing a good job."