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Win or lose Saturday night, the Maple Leafs have made Kade Foster’s day.
The 11-year-old Newfoundlander who was heartbroken when no invited guests attended his birthday party last week, was flown to Toronto with his parents and younger sister by the club and given the VIP treatment by the team prior to watching them play Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“He got a personal call from John Tavares inviting him here,” said Jason Foster as his wide-eyed son took in both teams’ morning skate after a tour of Scotiabank Arena. “We came in today, met the team and Kade is pretty excited. One of the lessons we’ve all learned is that there’s a lot of people out there who care – and the power of social media.”
When Jason sent out a tweet of Kade in his Leaf sweater, merely asking for some feel-good responses of support, the reaction was over-whelming. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and actor Ben Stiller sent best wishes to the shy lad.
General manager Kyle Dubas started the ball rolling on the Leafs’ behalf and the family arrived early Friday morning from the Corner Brook area via the small airport in Deer Lake, N.L. They spent the day at the Hockey Hall Of Fame and Ripley’s Aquarium before Saturday’s building and dressing room tour, also invited to sit in on coach Mike Babcock’s pre-game meeting with the players and be in an impromptu team photo.
“Mitch just signed my jersey,” said Kade as he sorted through a gift bag the club also provided.
Marner remembered hockey-themed birthdays when he was a kid.
“That meant a lot to you growing up. There’s usually pizza and snacks and a lot of fun for kids. (When hearing of Kade’s birthday let down) our group texted among ourselves and were able to plan something for him. Any time you have a chance to try and change someone’s life, you try and do it.”
The Leafs will be going for a fourth straight win on Saturday, last accomplished in early February of last season. They beat the Flyers in a club record 11-round shootout last Saturday.
Frederik Andersen starts in goal again with Toronto once more vowing to stay out of the penalty box and do more with its power play.
“You don’t want to rely on (Andersen stopping) point blank chances,” Tavares said. “No question we want to dictate terms. We want to defend well.”
The Leafs will try and wrap this game up in regulation after overtime has been needed in three of the past four, of which they were short-handed in all extra periods. That has not happened to Toronto since 1992-93.
Forward Nic Petan is with the Marlies after clearing waivers on Friday, but defenceman Martin Marincin remains with the Leafs after he passed through as well. The Leafs are keeping a Sunday back-to-back in Chicago in mind.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019