Liles warms up with a new team

Posted by Chip Alexander on January 2, 2014 

WASHINGTON -- John-Michael Liles was set for warmups for the 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Wednesday when he got the news he had been traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Liles watched from the sideline as the Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings. He then hopped a flight to Washington to join his new team -- the Carolina Hurricanes.

On Thursday, Liles took the ice at the Verizon Center for the morning skate. He was paired with Ryan Murphy. He was used on the power-play unit with Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Alex Semin and Murphy. Above his stall in the visitors locker room was "New Guy."

"It's exciting. It was kind of an up-and-down ride in Toronto the last few years and I'm just excited for the opportunity coming here with this team," Liles said. "I haven't played against them this year but watched a few of their games. They're obviously a good, young team and hopefully I can add something to it."

Liles, 33, began his NHL career with the Colorado Avalanche in 2003 and was named to the NHL All-Rookie team in 2003-2004. After seven seasons with the Avs, he was traded to the Leafs.

The trade to the Leafs came in June 2011, allowing plenty of time to make the move, the transition. For Liles, a midseason trade is something different.

Liles put on the Canes uniform for the first time Thursday -- No. 26 -- and will be playing Thursday night against the Washington Capitals.

"I'm jumping into the fire," he said. "But I'm excited about the opportunity, not having played too many games for Toronto this year."

Liles, who has more than 600 games of NHL experience, played just six games for the Leafs as Toronto coach Randy Carlyle and Leafs management opted to use two younger defensemen, Morgan Rielly (19) and Jake Gardiner (23).

"That's kind of the way it is everywhere, you're always battling for a spot," Liles said. "Sometimes it's a younger guy, sometimes the coach is looking for something different.

"You've got two really good players in Rielly and Gardiner there who are going to have bright futures, and they play a similar style game. Obviously the coaching staff felt with what they had in the lineup, they didn't necessarily need me quite as much."

Liles and Canes defenseman Mike Komisarek, another former Leaf, are good friends and Liles said Komisarek contacted him Wednesday.

"When he found out about the trade he said, 'You'll love it and really enjoy being a part of this team and the whole atmosphere,'" Liles said.

Liles, listed at 5-10 and 185 pounds, apparently will keep Komisarek out of the lineup against the Caps. The D pairs at the skate had Justin Faulk with Andrej Sekera, Ron Hainsey with Brett Bellemore and Liles with Murphy. Jay Harrison, who has been sidelined with a concussion, skated with the team and worked with Komisarek.

With center Riley Nash injured and sidelined for 7-10 days, Brett Sutter was an emergency recall Thursday from the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) and at the skate. He'll center the fourth line.

But most eyes were on No. 26, the "new guy."

"He's an offensive-minded veteran type of defenseman," Eric Staal said of Liles. "Great skater, good passer, good shot. He's played a lot of games and will add experience and work on the power play and also just move the puck up to the forwards. We're excited to have him."

At the same time, Staal and his teammates were sad to see defenseman Tim Gleason traded to the Leafs in the deal. Gleason had been a fixture with the Canes since the fall of 2006.

"I've been in this game long enough to see a lot of good friends come and go, and Tim is a friend and was a teammate for a long time," Staal said. "He's a competitor and a guy who has an edge to his game. Good person and a good man and someone we're going to miss."

Liles said he wasn't the only defenseman in the family. A younger brother, Joe, played club hockey at the U.S. Naval Academy. Now in the Navy, Joe Liles has had tours of Iraq and is stationed in San Diego, where John-Michael said he was a flight instructor for the P-3 Orion submarine chasers.

Joe Liles, 29, is a younger brother but apparently not a little brother.

"He got all the size. He's 6 foot 1. He stole it from me," John-Michael said, smiling. "I always say this job is easy compared to what he does and what all those guys do … on a daily basis."

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