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Game Journal: Game 63 – Wild vs. Maple Leafs

From Official Toronto Maple Leafs

2:15 PM:
Tonight’s officials will be Wes McCauley and Francis Charron. Brian Murphy and Steve Barton will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in can watch on Sportsnet Ontario, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Bob McGill preview tonight’s game below.

2:00 PM:
Here are tonight’s projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Wild.

Toronto Maple Leafs

41 Soshnikov – 43 Kadri – 47 Komarov
40 Grabner – 39 Nylander – 11 Hyman
37 Kapanen – 24 Holland – 49 Leipsic
38 Greening – 26 Smith – 23 Laich

2 Hunwick – 44 Rielly
51 Gardiner – 20 Corrado
52 Marincin – 8 Carrick

31 Sparks
45 Bernier

Minnesota Wild

11 Parise – 9 Koivu – 3 Coyle
26 Vanek – 64 Granlund – 12 Jones
22 Niederreiter – 56 Haula – 29 Pominville
7 Porter – 19 Stoll – 14 Fontaine

20 Suter – 25 Brodin
6 Scandella – 24 Dumba
4 Reilly – 46 Spurgeon

40 Dubnyk
35 Kuemper

1:45 PM:
Brooks Laich plays his third game as a Maple Leaf tonight. Here’s what he had to say following Thursday’s team meeting…

Leafs TV

Are you settling into Toronto?

Actually this morning moreso than ever. Yesterday I think was a pretty special time for me, but also a pretty important day to get over with. The thing that really helped me last night was getting able to say my goodbyes face-to-face. I think that helps me close off that chapter. I woke up this morning and my whole mindset was just on the Minnesota Wild and being part of this organization. It was just nice to have some closure last night and now I’m very excited for the chance tonight.

What do you think your role is going to be in this next chapter?

I’m still trying to figure that out. There’s been a lot of talk about a mentor role or leadership role, but that’s my sole focus. I’m here to play hockey and help win hockey games. I had a diminished role in Washington as far as the on-ice goes and so I still feel I have a lot of hockey left, but I also have a lot to prove. I want to get my game back to where I’m a two-way player, solid defensively but also get my offensive game kickstarted again. I have a lot to prove here in Toronto. I’m going to try and do that the next 20 games and have a good offseason.

Does being in a room with so many kids help rejuvenate you?

Yeah, I’ve always loved the game and I’ve always brought an energy to the rink, but I find that a lot of times younger kids will also bring that. Sometimes if you’re on a veteran squad maybe that isn’t as prominent in every day affairs. With the kids, they walk in bright-eyed and they’re smiling at everything and they’re looking around. It’s just fun to be a part of. I still feel that way, still feel privileged to play in the NHL. But it’s nice to have other people in the locker room that feel the same way.

How hard was it to be consistent when you first broke into the League?

You take some lumps. The one thing we tried to focus on in my early tenure in Washington was the effort. You wanted to have the effort. The first step towards is preparation and then the second step is expecting to win. We have to work on the belief that we expect to win. Being in games and moral victories and stuff, that does some for younger guys and for an organization, but we want to work on the belief that we are good enough to compete and good enough to win the game. I think you’re going to see a lot of growth in the group in the next 20 games. Tonight is a great opportunity. This is a team that I think we can really, really compete with and really — we saw some great signs last night, saw how our team can play. It’s still pretty early here for me but I saw how we can play and, bring that game and take it up another 10 per cent. I’m really looking forward to my first victory.

What do you see in the kids in their raw ability?

Tremendous abilities. I actually really like Hyman’s game, competes — he actually really reminds me of TJ Oshie the way he competes on the puck and goes to the net, plays in the hard areas. Willy with his puck possession, always very calm, head up with the puck. Kappy is pretty dynamic, stops and starts, cutbacks, I think he’s going to be a very slippery player. I’m still getting to know everybody, right? I see a lot of really good things, you do need talent, physical talent to win in the League. Hard work will get you a long way but you also need talent. In DC we had a really good mixture of both. We’re going to try and get both here.

Will being in back-to-backs here for the younger players?

No, I think the excitement takes over. This is the third game in their NHL career. I remember mine. I could have played a month straight, when I made the NHL I didn’t care, I just wanted to play NHL hockey games. I think their enthusiasm and energy — young legs too — I think that they’ll be fine.

On shaving his beard:

I’ll shave it again… I was made aware of some organizational policies and I’m trying to adhere to it. It’s been a hectic couple of days but I definitely want to keep the appearance up.

1:30 PM:
Brendan Leipsic was recalled by the Maple Leafs on an emergency basis on Thursday. Here’s what he had to say about his recall…

Leafs TV

How does it feel to be back?

It’s always exciting when you get the call back up. It’s another opportunity to try and prove myself up here so I’m looking forward it.

What’s the feel of the room with so many Marlies up here?

It’s awesome. These guys have played well the last two games. Right now I’m just trying to come in here and try and continue what I kind of did the last time I was up here. Like you said, there are a lot of guys up here it’s nice to see a lot of familiar faces.

Do you take being called greasy as a compliment?

Yeah, I think so. That’s the way I’ve got to play if I want to be successful at this level. Playing hard every shift, every night, not taking a shift off is the way I need to play.

What has been the message from the coaches as you shuffle back and forth?

Not a lot, I’m just kind of continuing the way I’ve done it up here. Taking care of the puck, being good without the puck and being good in my own end. I think all of the offensive stuff will take care of itself if I’m playing the right way.

What have your impressions of Coach been?

It’s good, it’s very straightforward. He doesn’t really sugarcoat anything like that. It’s the same with Sheldon. It’s good that the message right from him and it’s straightforward.

Have you had any starstruck moments?

Yeah, you know what, it’s still hard to soak all of this in. It’s only four games in my NHL career here, but kind of my welcome I guess you could say was playing in the Bell Centre, Hockey Night in Canada. That was a cool moment.

Do you feel that awe in the moment?

Yeah, there’s a lot of that. You’re trying not to zone out a little bit too much but sometimes it happens. It’s all part of the experience and I’m looking forward to tonight.

Does 3-in-3 in the AHL and quick turnarounds prepare you for back-to-backs here?

Yeah, I think so. You could ask any of the young guys, they’d rather do a back-to-back in the NHL than a 3-in-3 bus ride, Sunday afternoon game with the Marlies. Weekends like that do prepare you a little bit, you learn how to take care of your body a little bit better and once you come up here I think you’re ready for it for sure.

1:15 PM:
William Nylander spoke to the media ahead of Thursday’s game in Toronto. Here’s what he had to say…

Leafs TV

How did your second game go?

I think the first game was better, but you’re playing against Ovechkin and Backstrom. You’re just sort of, I don’t know, you don’t really realize how big it is. But, you’re just trying to get going in NHL games.

Is it a big difference physically for you from the AHL to the NHL?

Yeah, I mean, you play against in the AHL that are older and stronger. You’ve just got to get used to it and battle through it.

What has been your sense of Coach Babcock so far?

He’s a great coach, you’ve just got to listen to what he has to say. He’s always right so you’ve just got to keep working hard.

Does the 8-10 game range begin the real test when you’re not going on as much adrenaline?

Yeah, for sure once you start to get a feel for the way the game is being played, that’s what’s going to happen. You’ve got to start playing the way you feel like you can play.

Do you want to hold the puck more going forward or are you still feeling out the NHL to see what works?

You’ve just got to figure out in what situations you can use those moves and stuff like that. I want to get a feel for it like I said earlier and get that stuff going. Then finally maybe get your own game going too.

How was it playing against Backstrom?

That was pretty sick. You’re just standing — I sort of got caught off-guard first period. You’re just sort of starstruck a little bit but then you don’t want that to happen anymore. You’ve just got to get that out of the way and now you’ve just got to play.

Did being back in Washington bring back memories?

Yeah, of course. I’ve been in the Washington locker room a lot and seen Ovechkin in the locker room and running around the locker room growing up. It’s a pretty cool feeling.

1:00 PM: Here’s what Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say following Thursday morning’s team meeting.

Leafs TV

Is three games in three nights at the AHL level a good back-to-back prep for the younger players?

Well, I mean, it’s an every day league. You’ve got to play. I think it’s a great opportunity for us. We got in at 1 o’clock or something like that, I don’t think that’s crazy or nothing like that. We didn’t skate this morning, we should have energy tonight. We’ve been close but we don’t win. You play in the League to win and that’s the way you get ready and that’s the way you prepare and that’s the way you compete hard. So, we’ve got to be a little bit better in the faceoff circle, a little bit better on the kill, a little bit better on the power play and find a way to win a game. I thought we did lots of good things last night. In the end, good teams win and when they get up in the morning they don’t know they won by one. They win 50 times by one. Teams that don’t win, they play in 30 one goal games and they win eight. That’s what teams that win do and that’s what teams that don’t win do. I’ve been on the other side of it lots and never thought about it, you just won and got on with yourself.

Is consistency the biggest challenge for Nylander and Kapanen?

You’ve got to learn to work, you’ve got to learn to compete. The guy across from you feeds his family and when you first arrive in the League you don’t have a wife and kids. Then you do have a wife and kids and then when you have a wife and kids, now you understand what responsibility is and so you want your job and you understand how you compete for your job. When you’re a kid you always think you’re always going to get the puck back. Once you get older you know it’s too hard to get it back so you just hang on to it all the time and so there’s lots to learn obviously and they’re works in progress, but it’s got to be a night on every night. That’s the problem with the League. And the guys with the good engines and good energy and are good pros, they find a way to play every day. It’s a test of time.

Can you expand on your job as seeing your job as developing good people first and good players second?

100 per cent… The big thing is it wouldn’t matter to me if you’re 32 or 42, I believe in people doing it right every day and I believe the essence of who you are and the measure of who you are as a man is being a good human being and there’s no slipperyness about you. You’re honest every day with your effort and how you treat people and the respect you have for the game and your family and the whole thing. It all goes together. The more good people you have on your team — obviously talent is a part of that, you’ve got to have part of that — but, the more good men you have when you have a certain talent base, the more you win. I’m a big believer in that. So, we’re going to have good people here and we’re going to have good players.

Does your approach change when you coach players that young?

I think so. I think your approach changes with every person you coach. They’re at a different stage of their life. One thing that has happened to me is I’ve got kids as old as them or older and that are athletes that want to do well. I understand how people need to be spoken to and talked to, but I also understand what accountability is and what doing it right is. People that love you in your life, and that’s the biggest thing for me — you hear, ‘Oh this guy is a player’s coach.’ Well, what does that mean? The people in your life that love you and care about you, they make you better. And sometimes they have hard decisions and hard discussions with you, but they make you better and sometimes you don’t like it. So what? They make you better.

On Zach Parise:

He wants the puck more than anybody else. Skillset-wise, he’s got a great skillset, don’t get me wrong. But, his drivetrain in the offensive zone and stealing pucks and getting to the net and doing it right than every day is better than most guys. He’s got a skilsset — and I don’t want to take anything away from him because it’s unbelievable — but, his drivetrain is what separates him from everybody else. That’s the kind of guy you want to be around, that’s the kind of guy you want your kids to watch every day. We have to have good men for them to watch… I don’t know him as good. I’ve only been around and watched him grow from a distance, I don’t have a personal relationship with him. I’m just impressed by the kid.

What did you think of Soshnikov last night?

I loved him. Six finished checks, he pissed people off, they knew he was out there, he was for real. The last penalty was a joke. I don’t how a 225 pound guy goes down against a 180 pound guy like that. I thought he was great and if you play hard and you’ve got a skillset and you’re determined like that and you have no fear, you find a way to play a long time.

What is your plan for the captaincy of the World Cup team?

I haven’t got into it really, but there’s some good men there from the past that have done a real good job there. Army [Doug Armstrong] and I and the guys will talk about it for sure, but we’ll have — the great thing about it, when you look at the team, there’ll be a whole bunch of captains. The leadership group will be very strong. Someone’s going to have to wear the C and a couple of A’s so we’ll sort that out, but we haven’t — I mean, we have talked about it but we haven’t spent a whole lot of time on it. I’m sure that announcement will come.

On the final seven World Cup team choices:

Yesterday — and don’t get me wrong, the management team worked like crazy and we’ve had lots of discussions about it — the announcement of those players, every one of those players is going to be on the team. Now, can you negotiate over what order they should have been announced in? Probably and you guys like to do that anyways so that’s where the fun is. In saying that, there were going to be on the team. Now it gets hard though. The decisions have got to be made and the coaching staff will talk a lot about it now, the management team will talk a lot about it and we’ll make the right decisions to have the best players on the team and, you know, it’s a real honour to represent your country at Olympic games, at World Championships, at a World Cup. This will be a special event and so we’re going to make the best decisions.

What stood out about Leipsic for the recall?

He’s a greasy little guy, likes to have the puck, makes plays. He just can’t turn it over. As long as he doesn’t turn it over I really like him.

Sparks in goal tonight?


12:30 PM: The Maple Leafs wrap up a back-to-back in Toronto on Thursday night when they host the Minnesota Wild.

The Leafs took on the Washington Capitals in Washington last night and lost by a 3-2 score. Nikita Soshnikov and Colin Greening scored for the Maple Leafs, while Jonathan Bernier stopped 20 shots in the loss. Garret Sparks will get the start on Thursday night against the Wild.

The Wild last played on Tuesday night and defeated the Colorado Avalanche by a 6-3 score. Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle both had a pair of goals, while Jason Pominville and Erik Haula had lone tallies in the win. Devan Dubnyk stopped 30 shots for the Wild to secure the victory. He is expected to get the start in Toronto.

Stay tuned for comments from Coach Babcock, the Leafs and projected lineups.

Source: Game Journal: Game 63 – Wild vs. Maple Leafs

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