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Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson, left, gets taken out by Buffalo Sabres Forward Paul Gaustad, right, during second period pre-season NHL hockey action in Toronto on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Nathan Denette/CP

It's fair to say Cody Franson is feeling pretty frustrated.

The Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman came over via trade from the Nashville Predators in July and felt he had found a place where he could move up the depth chart.

Franson also believed he had played "pretty well" in training camp, but he learned on Monday he'll start the season as the Leafs seventh defenceman. Barring injury to another blueliner, he'll be watching from the press box during Thursday's home opener against the Montreal Canadiens.

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"Right now I'm not too thrilled with it," Franson said of where he's at. "You've got to just, I don't know, stick with it. It's a tough situation. We've got some good players here. Be interesting to see how it turns out."

Franson is coming out of a situation in Nashville where he was essentially a sixth defenceman on a good team, and it was evident he was excited at the chance to play more here.

The Predators had 99 points, finished fifth in the West and made the second round of the playoffs, all of it with him playing roughly 15 minutes a night.

One would think he'd have a far bigger role in Toronto, given this is a team that was eight points out of the playoffs last season.

Franson said Tuesday after practice that the two issues he can see is that (a) the Leafs play a far different, more aggressive system than the Preds that he's getting used to and (b) he hasn't had a regular defence partner since camp started.

In the four preseason games he played, he was paired with Carl Gunnarsson, Jake Gardiner and Mike Komisarek on an almost even three-way split.

"It would have been nice to be able to get locked down with somebody," Franson said. "But we're big boys, we can handle it."

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Franson added that he hasn't heard from the coaching staff about what his issues have been, only that he picked up on coach Ron Wilson's daily chat with the media on Monday and didn't take his comments "as a good thing."

Wilson's only comment on Franson that day?

"Right now [Franson]is our seventh defenceman, but I wouldn't hesitate to play him in any situation," he said. "That's just the way it is right now."

On Tuesday, the coach elaborated, saying he doesn't want Franson to get discouraged by where he is.

"I think Cody's been fine," Wilson said. "Right now, we've got some other guys playing a little bit better. He's just got to stay ready. He's going to play lots.

"To most people, the fact that Mike Komisarek's starting, they're upset by that. But Komo has played as well as any of our defencemen at training camp. That's why he's in there."

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Notebook: It's sounding less and less likely that Tim Connolly will be ready for Thursday's game. He's not practising with contact at this point as he nurses an upper body injury (likely either to his shoulder or arm). Expect Tyler Bozak to play in his place alongside Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.

And a day after being placed on waivers, Joey Crabb was back at practice, as with all the injuries, he gets a chance to stay around a while longer. Darryl Boyce and Matt Lashoff, meanwhile, cleared waivers and went to the Marlies.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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