THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO -- They made their Toronto debut against the Edmonton Eskimos so it only figures Ricky Ray and Jason Barnes would play their first playoff game with the Argonauts against their former team.
- Ricky Ray
Toronto will host Edmonton in the Eastern Semi-Final Sunday at Rogers Centre. The Argos earned the right to host the contest by finishing second in the division while Edmonton was third in the West but captured the crossover berth after posting a better record than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
"The way the season has been kind of been coming down you knew that was a high probability of playing them,'' Ray said following practice Sunday. "I don't play better by playing with a chip on my shoulder so for me I'm preparing like it's another game.
"Obviously I want to win but it's the playoffs and I'll face whoever comes here. You're going to be playing some good teams to get to the Grey Cup.''
But the irony of the playoff matchup wasn't lost upon Barnes.
"I don't know who wrote that script,'' he said with a chuckle. ''I'm just looking forward to the challenge.
"They got us twice this year and I'm definitely looking for some payback.''
Toronto made huge headlines last December after acquiring Ray from Edmonton for journeyman quarterback Stephen Jyles, Canadian kicker Grant Shaw and the second pick of the 2012 CFL Canadian college draft.
The deal was a huge coup for the Argos, who acquired one of the league's top pure passers and two-time Grey Cup champion over his nine seasons with the Eskimos.
Then in the off-season, Toronto signed Barnes as a free agent. The slotback spent three seasons in Edmonton and was twice released by the club, including after registering 50 catches for 869 yards in 2011 to pursue NFL opportunities. When he couldn't land a deal south of the border Barnes joined the Argos and reunited with Ray.
Ray struggled early adjusting to head coach Scott Milanovich's offence but still threw for 4,059 yards this season, the seventh time in his 10-year CFL career he has surpassed the 4,000-yard passing plateau. Ray's 68.6 per cent completion average was also a club record.
But Edmonton took advantage of Ray's early struggles to sweep the season series with Toronto 2-0. The Eskimos opened the 2012 campaign with a 19-15 home win June 30 before downing the Argos 26-17 at Rogers Centre on Aug. 27.
Ray was a combined 52-of-77 passing against the Eskimos for 549 yards and two TDs but threw two interceptions in the second defeat. Barnes had six catches for 73 yards in the two games but only two for 14 yards in the second matchup.
Barnes' first year in Toronto has been a struggle with just 31 catches for 437 yards and four TDs. But he did have a career-best three touchdown catches in a 44-32 home loss to Winnipeg on Oct. 19.
The August defeat seems to have been a watershed moment for the 33-year-old Ray, who has thrown just two interceptions since then although he did miss three starts with a knee injury. But in his two games since returning to the lineup, Ray has eight TD passes against just one interception and Toronto heads into the playoffs having won its final two regular-season contests.
Edmonton, by comparison, has lost three straight and eight of its last 10 games. On Saturday, the Eskimos also fired GM Eric Tillman, who has been under tremendous fire in Alberta for his role in the controversial Ray trade.
"Of course, I had a reaction but nothing I want to talk about. That's their situation,'' Ray said when asked about Tillman's firing. "I'm here in Toronto now and this is the team I'm playing for.