From Pension Puppets
From Official Toronto Maple Leafs
3:40 PM: Tonight’s officials will be Tim Peel and Brad Watson. Vaughan Rody and Greg Devorski will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in to the game can watch on TSN 4, listen on TSN 1050 and follow the Leafs on Twitter.
3:35 PM: Here are tonight’s projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks.
Toronto Maple Leafs
40 Grabner – 43 Kadri – 47 Komarov
24 Holland – 33 Arcobello – 15 Parenteau
26 Winnik – 16 Spaling – 28 Boyes
38 Greening – 56 Froese – 25 Clune
2 Hunwick – 44 Rielly
51 Gardiner – 46 Polak
52 Marincin – 20 Corrado
65 Shaw – 19 Toews – 14 Panik
72 Panarin – 15 Anisimov – 88 Kane
11 Desjardins – 24 Danault – 86 Teravainen
53 Mashinter – 70 Rasmussen – 48 Hinostroza
2 Keith – 4 Hjlamarsson
57 van Riemsdyk – 7 Seabrook
43 Svedberg – 32 Rozsival
3:30 PM: James Reimer gets the start on Monday in Chicago. Here’s what he had to say ahead of the game…
On the Blackhawks:
They’re a good squad, obviously they’ve got a lot of talent and I think it’s just a case where you play them honest. I think in here the way we’ve been playing the last couple of games, we’ve been playing real solid, real honest hockey. We just need another game like that. They’re a good team over there and we need to be at our best.
What do you remember about Richard Panik?
Real good player, a real good player. He’s a good friend of mine too and so obviously it was sad to him get traded. At the same time you’re happy for him and you want the best for him. He’s got a ton of skill, he’s got a great shot so you’ve just got to be aware of him when he’s out there.
Is there an emphasis on peripheral vision for you tonight against a player like Kane?
Yeah, you always have to be aware of who is out there and what they’re capable of. At the end of the day though, you’re playing against the puck. You always want to let it tell you what it wants you to do and so in any case with skilled players, you’ve got to be sharp and focused and be on your toes.
What’s it like to face 19 shots in Vancouver when you normally see double that?
It’s different, it’s just a different game. You’ve got to make sure you’re always ready. When your team is playing that well you just want to make sure that when they do get their chance that you’re good to go. It’s just a matter of staying in it and watching your team do their thing.
On Leipsic’s deut:
It’s awesome, obviously you’re homers in that sense, you always want the best for people coming out of your province or where you’re from. Any time there’s a Manitoban in the League you’re excited about it and when he’s on your team you’re even more pumped. I hope he can keep it going here and keep his bat ready and hot.
Did you know him at all before he got here?
No, not really. Obviously I knew him when he came to our team and skated with him this summer a little bit in Toronto but I never knew him before that, no.
3:15 PM: Colin Greening gets set for his third game in a Leafs sweater on Monday. Here’s what he had to say following the morning skate…
Is being a physical player important to your success right now?
I think so, especially when you’re on the forecheck. If you look at the game now it’s very fast-moving and in order to keep the puck in the corner and not allow the defensive team to break out quickly you have to stop the puck and a lot of times it’s being physical on the forecheck. That’s a big thing and part of my game is making sure I’m on the forecheck and finishing my hits.
On the team effort to limit Vancouver in the offensive zone:
When you think about it, especially when you think about the Sedins, you have to make sure you can hem the puck in their zone. If they don’t have the puck that bodes well for the team. They have a lot of firepower in Vancouver and it’s going to be the same thing for Chicago. It’s going to be a good challenge tonight but we’re excited.
What’s the fine line with putting pucks in the net on the power play given the chances?
Given that I’ve only been here for two games I don’t really know the difference, I know that I can only speak for my unit. I think that Arcobello and P-A and Morgan and Froese and Boyes have been moving the puck really well. I think we’ve been reading off each other pretty well. We haven’t been holding on to it, getting a lot of shots. I think that’s important too because once you get shots on net it spreads out the PK a little bit. I guess from the limited time I’ve been here that’s what I’ve seen.
3:00 PM: Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner has four points in three games on this road trip. Here’s what he had to say ahead of Monday’s game in Chicago…
On his recent offensive output:
I’m not sure, some of the points were a little lucky but I feel pretty confident on the ice now, moving the puck well. It’s kind of weird how that happens, sometimes you lose it for a few games and get it back and I think that’s kind of what happened.
On the keys to jumping into the rush:
Yeah, you’ve just got to pick your spots. A guy like Kane, Panarin, Toews, guys like that, sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit more cautious and if it’s a riskier play, choose your spots.
On duplicating the effort in Vancouver to earn a win tonight:
Yeah, for sure. Just the way our whole team has been played the last three games has been pretty cool, especially with the guys out of the lineup and younger guys stepping up. It has been good for our group.
What’s the key to turning around the power play?
I think we had probably 10 or 12 chances [against Vancouver] and nothing went in. The goalie has been playing well for the other team, I guess. We just haven’t been getting many bounces. We’re happy with the production we’ve had and just hopefully we can get some goals here.
What are you seeing as you finish off that goal in Edmonton?
I don’t know if I ended up hitting that in the end there, I couldn’t really tell because I hit the post with it too. I just saw it going in and thought I’d give it a chance.
2:45 PM: Here’s what Mike Babcock had to say following Monday’s morning skate…
On discipline as a key vs. Chicago:
We’re going to need it obviously. Last time we played them we took six minors, they got two on the power play, but really they got three when the guy just got out. We’ve got to figure that out and we’ve got to play real well. They’ve got a lot of skill in their lineup, they’re a fun team to play against because you find out what the standard is and you’ve got to play well without the puck. It should be a lot of fun for us tonight.
How is Grabner?
Good, he’s playing tonight.
Is Kadri back?
Don’t know, we’ll see tonight.
Was it all hands on deck to keep Vancouver below 20 shots?
I thought we played well and we executed in our own zone so we got to roll around in their zone. That’s what the game is supposed to be about, it’s supposed to be about offence, it’s more fun that way. I thought we were prepared and we executed and we have to do the same here tonight.
Did Leipsic respond the way you like from a player in his first game?
As much as you watch him in the American League — and I watch those guys on TV quite a bit — you don’t know until they get here. Can they handle the pace? Do they have skill? Are they going to be afraid? You don’t really know those things. I thought he was real good in the game he got to play.
Do you get excited or nervous for guys playing their first game?
I get excited for them. The kid scored, I saw it on the replay when I was watching the game. First they made him go out for warmup by himself, which I thought was kind of cool. The second thing is you score and your Mom and Dad and Billets are there so that’s pretty special. The whole thing has to be a real good experience. You work hard to get here and now once you get here and get a taste, you know how hard you have to work to keep staying here and ideally you get here and stay here a long time.
What did Panik lack to make the team?
I don’t think he lacked anything. I think he’s a big guy who skates real good, he’s heavy and is playing well right now for these guys. He played well for us with the Marlies and obviously when he was with the Marlies they decided they wanted to try something else so that’s what they did.
What has the consistent effort of Hunwick meant to the team this season?
I think when you look at guys and good pros who do it right every day it has been a positive thing for us. Obviously him and Polie have been excellent that way, Leo, Grabner. When you look at those guys they play hard every day and they do it right and they’ve been good support for our young people.
How challenging has this trip been with the length and all the injuries and changes?
I don’t know, it’s been a good trip. I got to see one daughter in Calgary, one in Vancouver. To me it doesn’t much matter, we play games and you’ve got to get ready for those games. I think the trip has been spread out, we haven’t had to play back-to-back. We had a travel day yesterday and an off-day, we should be fresh for tonight, there’s no reason — we’ve got an off-day when we get home. Let’s just play.
Is Morin in tonight?
What has been the process been like in Toronto thus far?
Well, I didn’t say I was looking forward to the pain so let’s get that straight. I was looking forward to the challenge and it’s been exactly what you expected. I think the thing that has been real good is Lou and Shanny have been real patient and we all know what the plan is on game day, you expect to win, you expect to prepare to win and you expect to win. The rest of the days you follow your plan and what your plan is and do it long term. All you’ve got to do is look at the Hawks. To build up a 10-year run, you went through some tough times for a long time to get the skillset where you need it. That’s what we have to do right now. We’re in the process of doing it.
2:30 PM: The Maple Leafs wrap up their four-game road trip on Monday night when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
The Leafs are coming off of a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. Brendan Leipsic had his first NHL goal and Mark Arcobello scored his first two goals as a Leaf while Brad Boyes and Leo Komarov added solo tallies. James Reimer stopped 17 shots to earn the victory. He starts again in Chicago.
The Blackhawks last played on Saturday night and took a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Brent Seabrook had both goals for Chicago while Corey Crawford made 41 saves in the loss. Scott Darling is slated to get the start in goal against Toronto.
Stay tuned for updates from Coach Babcock, the Leafs, projected lineups and more.
From Official Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs
Here’s a sampling of what the Leafs had to say following a 5-2 win in Vancouver over the Canucks.
I think we’ve worked real hard on the trip. We could’ve had better success than we’ve had, but tonight we were rewarded. We scored a few goals and were able to keep it out, had good goaltending and we played real hard. Give the guys a lot of credit.
I think that’s got to be one of our best defensive games of the year. We’ve had some good games this year, but as far as shutting them down, they only had a couple chances and they were fortunate enough to bury on a few. But I thought our guys played one of the best games I’ve seen them play.
On his NHL debut:
It feels amazing. You work this hard all of your life to get to this point, it was a pretty cool experience.
On his first goal:
We were just in on the forecheck and Gards (Jake Gardiner) snapped one on net. For whatever reason it popped up in the air and nobody knew where it was. I just got an eye on it and was lucky to bat it out of the air.
Source: Postgame Quotes: Feb. 13, 2016
From Official Toronto Maple Leafs
VANCOUVER _ Mark Arcobello scored his first two goals of the season 17 seconds apart and Brendan Leipsic added his first NHL goal in his first game as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Saturday night.
James Reimer made 17 stops and Jake Gardiner added two assists for Toronto (20-25-9), which entered play last in the overall standings and won in regulation for just the second time since Jan. 6. Brad Boyes and Leo Komarov added empty netters.
The Maple Leafs, who came in on a three-game slide and were just 3-10-2 over their last 15, stunned the hockey world by trading captain Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa earlier this week, and iced an injury-depleted lineup that included a number of youngsters and minor leaguers.
Daniel Sedin and Sven Baertschi scored for Vancouver (22-21-12), which had won two in a row to get back in the Western Conference playoff race after dropping four straight. Ryan Miller made 33 saves.
Up 2-1 after two periods and leading 31-13 on the shot clock, Toronto stretched its advantage to two at 3:54 of the third. Leipsic, an emergency injury callup from the AHL, batted the puck home in front of a helpless Miller after Rich Clune‘s initial shot bounced high off a Vancouver defender.
Baertschi buried a rebound with 1:47 left in regulation for his 11th, but Boyes, with his sixth, and Komarov, with his 18th, scored into empty nets as Toronto collected its first win in Vancouver since November 2003 to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Leafs fans decked out in blue and white chanted “Go Leafs Go” as the final seconds wound down before the Toronto players spilled over the boards to celebrate a complete victory.
After a scoreless first where Toronto held a 16-7 edge in shots, the Canucks grabbed the lead 3:18 into the second. Jannik Hansen stole the puck behind the Leafs net and fed it in front to Sedin, who buried his 22nd of the season and first in seven games.
Arcobello, who was pointless in 13 games before Saturday, got that one back 1:09 later when he jumped on a Canucks turnover and ripped a shot past Miller.
In the third game of his most recent callup, Arcobello then gave his team the lead just 17 seconds later when Gardiner drove past Radim Vrbata and Arcobello shovelled the loose puck past Miller.
Toronto had been outscored 15-6 in its last three games, and nearly went up 3-1 on an extended 5-on-3 power play, but Morgan Rielly saw one shot hit the post before Miller snagged another with his glove.
Reimer didn’t have a lot to do at the other end until Emerson Etem tested him with a one timer from the slot and Bo Horvat tried to beat him upstairs on a wraparound.
The period was accented by a tussle between a clearly frustrated Henrik Sedin and Komarov that had the Vancouver captain taking swings at the Leafs forward.
The Canucks, who have now failed to win three in a row six times this season, donned black throwback jerseys that featured the “flying skate” logo the club abandoned after the 1996-97 season as part of 20th anniversary celebrations for Rogers Arena.
Notes: The Canucks announced Friday that defenceman Alexander Edler and forward Brandon Sutter will miss at least six weeks each after suffering injuries in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Colorado. Edler was hurt blocking a shot with his foot, while Sutter broke his jaw after taking a puck to the face. … Leafs centre Nazem Kadri sat out for a second night in a row with a lower-body injury. … Henrik Sedin played his 1,141th game for the Canucks to pass team president Trevor Linden for the all-time record.
Source: Leafs Win In Vancouver
From Official Toronto Maple Leafs
Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks Saturday at Rogers Arena:
Absence of regulars didn’t matter to their replacements.
Playing once again without injured veterans James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, Shawn Matthias, Joffrey Lupul – as well as Josh Leivo, who’d scored two goals in the two games prior to Saturday night’s tilt against the Canucks, but was hurt Thursday against Edmonton – the Leafs recalled forwards Brendan Leipsic and Jeremy Morin from the American League Saturday. But it was another former Marlie in Mark Arcobello who stepped up in their absence, scoring his first two goals as a Leaf just 17 seconds apart (and 90 seconds after Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin opened the scoring) early in the second period. The 27-year-old Arcobello bounced between four NHL teams last season, but he did everything asked of him at the AHL level this year and now has his first points of the season in his 14th game with the Buds. Head coach Mike Babcock rewards players who take advantage of opportunity, and Arcobello has done enough on this Western Canadian road trip to get more of them in the near-future.
New face Leipsic has dream NHL debut.
The 21-year-old didn’t lead the team in ice time in his first game in hockey’s best league – in fact, he logged only 9:28 Saturday – but did have a couple solid scoring chances early on. And then, at the 3:54 mark of the third frame, he batted in a puck out of the air and past veteran netminder Ryan Miller for his first NHL goal. Leipsic also got the famous rookie treatment of skating on the ice all alone in the warmup, while his amused teammates looked on in the hallway to the dressing room. Leipsic has been one of the Marlies’ best players this year (14 goals and 34 points in 47 AHL games), and it’s safe to say (a) he’ll remember this game for the rest of his life, and (b) he’ll be getting another chance to show what he can do at the NHL level in the weeks and months ahead.
Jake Gardiner once again taking steps forward.
In the three games since losing former defensive partner Dion Phaneuf to a trade to the Senators, Gardiner’s game has grown in leaps and bounds on the offensive end: he had a goal against both Calgary and Edmonton, effortlessly moved the puck deep into Vancouver’s zone and toward Miller to help set up Arcobello’s second goal of the night, and grabbed his second assist of the night on Leipsic’s goal. The 25-year-old blueliner’s confidence is clearly on an upward trajectory, and Toronto’s offence is benefitting from it.
An all-around effort leads to first win of the road trip.
The Leafs hadn’t won in Vancouver since 2003, but despite surrendering the first goal of the game Saturday, Toronto out-shot the Canucks 31-13 through the first 40 minutes of play and made life much easier for netminder James Reimer, who picked up his 11th win of the season by turning aside all but two of the 19 total shots he saw. Babcock stresses that smart, sustained effort can make up for the absence of talent, and on this night, the Leafs in the lineup proved him right.
Savour the win, but not for too long.
The win over the Canucks snapped a three-game losing streak, but the Leafs can’t admire it for very long at all, because their next game is in Chicago against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. When last the Buds and Hawks played – Jan. 15 at Air Canada Centre – Toronto was steamrolled 4-1 by a visiting team that got a hat trick from Patrick Kane. And although the Blackhawks have cooled down since then, it will take nothing less than a virtually mistake-proof effort from the Leafs to remain in the win column for the second consecutive game.
From Official Toronto Maple Leafs
EDMONTON – Connor McDavid continues to show why he has been labelled as a potential generational talent.
McDavid had two goals and three assists as the Edmonton Oilers came away with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday in a battle between the NHL’s two lowest-ranked teams.
“We needed this,” McDavid said. “There was a lot of pressure on us coming in, playing against a team that was desperate and missing a lot of guys. They played a great game in terms of structure and not giving up too much. But it was a big night for us to start off the homestand.”
Jordan Eberle scored three goals and added an assist for the Oilers (22-29-5), who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Along with a four-assist performance from Benoit Pouliot, the line combined for 13 points.
“I think the more we play together the better we will be,” Eberle said. “Tonight was obviously our best, we put up goals and whatnot. But it was the little plays that I really liked. Coming out of our end, cycling, I thought we did a better job of that. Chemistry is not something you get right away, you’ve got to grow it a bit.”
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said sometimes all you can do is sit back and watch McDavid, the 19-year-old phenom.
“His performance did all the speaking,” he said. “You turn into a fan as a coach and as players and just admire what he and his linemates did.”
“I didn’t mind our game to tell you the truth,” said Toronto head coach Mike Babcock. “We threw the puck away on their fourth goal, which I didn’t like to see, there was no reason to do that. But we got ourselves in a good spot and in the end. We didn’t finish and they did.”
Edmonton scored on the first shot of the game 3:29 into the first period as Benoit Pouliot sent in McDavid on a breakaway and he deked around Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier to deposit his eighth goal of the season.
Toronto responded eight minutes into the first as Leivo picked the top corner to beat Oilers starter Cam Talbot. Leivo left the game later in the period with an upper-body injury.
Edmonton restored its lead six-and-a-half minutes into the middle frame as Eberle picked up a bouncing puck in front of the net and sent home his 16th of the year.
The Oilers made it 3-1 late in the second on a power play as McDavid spotted Eberle all alone at the side of the net and he potted his second of the game.
Toronto got one back with 15 seconds left in the middle frame as a Gardiner shot appeared to carom off a pair of Oilers before ending up behind Talbot.
McDavid salted the game away with six minutes left, scoring his second of the contest on a shot from the slot.
Eberle added an empty-net goal for his first career NHL hat trick after previously recording two-goal games 17 times.
Both teams return to action on Saturday as the Oilers play host to the Winnipeg Jets and the Leafs travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks.
Notes: Of the players acquired Tuesday in the nine-player trade that sent captain Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators, only forward Colin Greening was in the Leafs lineup. Milan Michalek (broken finger) and Jared Cowen (hips) did not dress.
From Official Toronto Maple Leafs
By Chris Lund
Here’s a sampling of what the Leafs had to say following a 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
He’s (Connor McDavid) a real good player obviously. I thought their goaltender was real good early. We worked hard, had lots of chances but in the end they were able to capitalize on theirs.
He’s definitely a special player. You just watch the stuff he can do – the little things – most players don’t see. Obviously he was in on all five goals tonight and he’s definitely a guy everyone’s going to have to be aware of.
I felt good. Felt like I made some mistakes, but overall I think there was more positive than negative. But I think that’s going to happen your first game, especially with a new team.
I thought we did a good job in between periods, we stayed positive, the game was right there. We scored that big goal in the second and then obviously that fourth one really hurt us. But I thought the whole game we’re right there and we had our chances to put it in.
Source: Postgame Quotes: Feb. 11, 2016
From Official Toronto Maple Leafs
Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Thursday at Rexall Place:
Injury-depleted roster not an excuse in gritty Leafs effort.
Playing without injured veterans Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, Shawn Matthias, Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri, Toronto was going to be in tough to produce enough offence to beat the high-octane Oilers. But after surrendering the first goal of the game to Edmonton phenom Connor McDavid early in the first period, the Buds answered back with a goal from Josh Leivo to make it 1-1, held the hosts to just three first-period shots on Jonathan Bernier and clawed back from a 3-1 deficit in the middle frame on Jake Gardiner’s second goal in as many games. McDavid scored his second of the night in the third period to put the game out of reach, but they were competitive for the grand majority of the 60 minutes.
Josh Leivo on a roll before leaving the game.
Leivo’s first-period goal – a near-identical copy of the one he scored against Calgary on Tuesday – was his second of the year at this level, his second in two games, and an indication he’s got an NHL-calibre shot. Unfortunately, he didn’t return after the first intermission after suffering an upper-body injury, but the 22-year-old is demonstrating he can provide the offence Toronto has desperately been seeking.
Another above-average night for Jake Gardiner.
Yes, his ill-timed pinch led to McDavid’s first goal, and yes, Gardiner gave away the puck on the same play that ended when he scored his fifth of the year, but Toronto doesn’t have many players who have his patience level and creativity with the puck. He’s still got to improve in some areas, but there are few, if any, Leafs blueliners who can do what Gardiner can on offence.
Mark Arcobello leads way in shots-on-net during season-high in minutes.
The Leafs’ two top forwards in terms of ice time Thursday were veterans Leo Komarov (19:13) and P-A Parenteau (18:17), but a close third was Arcobello, who logged a season-best 17:31 while leading Toronto in shots-on-net (seven). The 27-year-old is still looking for his first NHL point of the season after spending most of it with the AHL’s Marlies, but the coaching staff no doubt will be encouraged by his willingness to put the puck on net.
That McDavid kid is pretty good.
The No. 1 pick of the 2015 NHL draft was the odds-on favorite to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie this year before a lengthy injury hurt those chances. But McDavid has been nothing short of spectacular since he returned to game action Feb. 2, and his two-goal, five-point performance Thursday against the Leafs is evidence he can still win that award in the 26 regular-season games the Oilers have remaining. After Thursday’s game, the 19-year-old has nine goals and 24 points in 19 games, and betting against him keeping up that point pace would be folly.
From Official Toronto Maple Leafs
5:50 PM: Tonight’s officials will be Gord Dwyer and Brian Pochmara. Ryan Gibbons and Vaughan Rody will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in to the game can watch on TSN 4, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.
5:45 PM: Here are tonight’s projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Oilers.
Toronto Maple Leafs
40 Grabner – 24 Holland – 47 Komarov
38 Greening – 33 Arcobello – 15 Parenteau
26 Winnik – 16 Spaling – 32 Leivo
25 Clune – 56 Froese – 28 Boyes
2 Hunwick – 44 Rielly
51 Gardiner – 46 Polak
52 Marincin – 20 Corrado
4 Hall – 29 Draisaitl – 16 Purcell
67 Pouliot – 97 McDavid – 14 Eberle
26 Pakarinen – 55 Letestu – 10 Yakupov
44 Kassian – 23 Hendricks – 28 Korpikoski
2 Sekera – 5 Fayne
25 Nurse – 19 Schultz
88 Davidson – 62 Gryba
What are your thoughts on going up against Connor McDavid?
I better be ready to skate tonight, some of the highlights I’ve seen he just flies. He makes some great moves at full speed, some great passes and he sees the ice well. I’ve got to get my feet moving and make sure I’m on the defensive side of him most of the time.
Is there a curiosity in playing him?
It’s going to be fun. Obviously he was hurt for a while there but he’s been on a torrid pace before and after. He’s a great player, he’s come in with a lot of confidence and so it’s a good challenge tonight.
What stands out to you as a big challenge playing centre?
Just play a 200 foot game, continue the momentum I’m building in the offensive zone but be solid defensively. That’s how you earn [Babcock’s] trust and take some important faceoffs for him. Play all 200 feet.
On the shuffling of roles between players:
When you have three or four injuries and people coming in and out of the lineup, obviously it creates different opportunities for guys. Obviously I find myself on the top line tonight but I just have to take it and play with the confidence I’ve developed here and do my best to help this team win.
Do you get more comfortable as a winger or are you anxious to get back to the middle?
I’ve flip-flopped so much this year that I’m comfortable playing both positions at this point. It seems like every couple of games I witch back and forth so I’m just trying to find my centre game as quick as I can tonight.
Are you worried about being on a highlight reel when you play a player like McDavid?
You know he has that skill. You don’t want to put yourself in a position where he can use his speed to burn you. You don’t play the puck, play the man against him. It goes back to the basics you learn in minor hockey. If you start watching the puck on a guy like that he’s going to make you look foolish. I’m just going to go out and play my game and hopefully I don’t end up on the wrong side of one of those.
5:30 PM: Here’s what Matt Hunwick had to say following Thursday’s morning skate in Edmonton…
What are the biggest challenges going up against a guy like Connor McDavid?
I haven’t really seen him play too much, obviously I’ve heard a lot of things. I think his speed is one of his biggest assets and obviously he can make plays at top speed. We’ll have to have a good gap tonight and he’s just a dynamic player that we haven’t had the chance to see this year. It’ll obviously be a great challenge for us.
Have you seen any of his highlights?
I don’t watch too much but I’ve seen the one, I think it was against Columbus. That’s the only one I’ve seen. Obviously he’s a special player and an unbelievable play there.
Is there a curiosity as a veteran to play a guy like him?
Yeah, I mean I always like to see the newest guys and he’s a generational type of player is what they’re touting him. I think he has lived up to that billing so far in the short time he has been in the League. It would be better watching him play other teams but tonight we’ll have a firsthand chance to see what he’s all about.
5:20 PM: Jonathan Bernier is slated to get the start for the Maple Leafs in Edmonton tonight. Here’s what he had to say ahead of the game…
What do you know about McDavid?
Obviously he’s very skilled and I’ve seen some goals that he’s scored, he’s got very high skills and I think he makes everyone around him a lot better. We all know as a team we’ve got to be on top of him all night long. It doesn’t change when you play against a guy like Crosby or Ovechkin or all those top guys in the League. You’ve got to make sure you’re on top of them all night.
When you see the highlights are you amazed he’s a teenager?
Yeah, I mean the League has changed. You see a lot more guys now 18, 19 and they come up and they’re more ready than 22, 23 when I started. It’s changed a lot but he’s amazing.
On stopping McDavid’s famous deke:
Well it depends. In a game it all depends on how much time he’s got, if he’s got a guy on his back. When he scored those goals it’s because he was alone with the goalie and I think he had a bit more time to stop and go the other way. I’ve seen that goal and obviously I’ll be expecting it I guess if he comes in on a 1-on-1.
How are you feeling about your game?
I feel good. Like I mentioned, I think since I came back from the [American League] and I’ve just got to — whenever I get the call to go in I’ve just got to make sure I go in and make sure I’m ready and give a good chance to my team to get a good W tonight and move on that long road trip. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready right from the start.
Do you feel you need to step up with a shorthanded lineup tonight?
I just think I’ve got to do my job. Once you start trying to do too much, that’s when you’re getting caught. You’ve got to make sure you’re doing your part and hopefully the guys in front of you are doing their part.
On the lineup:
[Kadri is out] Everybody else that was in the game last game is going to play. Cowen is not going to play. When they did our scan of him or whatever our medical people do, they felt his hips were really tight. He’s not injured or nothing, he practiced today. We’re going to spend the next 10 days doing what we can to loosen his hips up so we can catch him being good when he starts.
What stands out about McDavid when you watch him on film?
He’s an elite player, he can really skate, great speed through the middle, good hockey sense. It looks like he’s going to develop into a real, real good player at the National Hockey League level. I’ve never seen him live so this will be my first chance. He’s a good kid, I met with him prior to the draft and he looks very exciting.
On injuries scrambling the lines:
I don’t think they’re scrambled, I think they’re beautiful, it’s just how you look at it. A new opportunity, an opportunity to get some momentum together. You do what you do. I never thought Holly would be our first line centre tonight but that’s just the way it goes. It’s an opportunity for everybody and the great thing about life is if you grab hold of something it’s amazing what you can do for yourself. Some guys that might not have thought they were playing yesterday are in. Play hard, play well and let’s find a way to get a win.
What would you like to see from Holland at centre?
I like him on the wing just because I think he’s more comfortable. The bottom line is when you play in the middle you’ve got to be real good down low or else you spend too much time down low in your own zone. If you’re good you spend a lot of time in the offensive zone. That’s going to be the challenge, the faceoff circle and playing well without the puck in your own zone so you can spend some time in offence.
How would you assess the team’s achievement in your system through 50 games?
I think a lot of guys are playing really well, it’s just their level of their capability. I think the big challenge for us as a group, and we knew that going in, is to keep improving our roster so that we can get to a spot that we can have a real good run. That’s our plan.
5:00 PM: The Leafs are continue their road trip on Thursday night when they visit the Edmonton Oilers.
The Leafs are coming off of a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night. Peter Holland, Josh Leivo and Jake Gardiner recorded goals for the Maple Leafs while James Reimer stopped 18 shots in the loss. Jonathan Bernier will get the start in Edmonton. It’s his first start since Jan. 27 in Tampa Bay and first appearance since Feb. 6 in Ottawa.
The Oilers last played on Tuesday night and lost 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils. Jordan Eberle had the lone Edmonton goal while Cam Talbot stopped 24 shots in the loss. He will return to the crease against the Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
Stay tuned for comments from Coach Babcock and the Leafs, projected lineups and more.