By: David Alter
The Maple Leafs felt a little looser at their morning skate, just a day removed from the NHL trade deadline.
“Some guys are just relieved” said defenceman Jake Gardiner. “I think everybody is relieved they didn’t get traded, that we have the same group here and we’re going to battle together.”
The Leafs have dropped eight of their last nine games, a slide that have seen them drop to tenth in the Eastern Conference standings. Head Coach Ron Wilson insists that there will be a significant difference in the team with the negativity of trade talk now in the past.
“It’s a different kind of pressure” says Wilson when comparing the difference between the pressure of possibly being dealt rather than the pressure of trying to make the playoffs. “This should be the type of pressure you enjoy, you know you’re going to be here and you’re trying to make the playoffs. This is positive pressure. Trade deadline is usually negative pressure.”
Reimer All The Way?
The most glaring issue for the Maple Leafs remains in goal. James Reimer will make his third consecutive start tonight and it appears Reimer will get a bulk load of the starts going forward.
“I’m going to try and get Reims going here” said Wilson. “All these rumours over the past couple of weeks have shown that they were nothing but rumours.”
Nothing unusual here. It’s clear Leafs staff is doing everything they possibly can to instill some confidence in Reimer. Unless he has a terrible game that results in a loss, you will see Reimer back between the pipes the following night.
Mike Komisarek will be back in the lineup tonight after being a healthy scratch for the past four games.
“Whether you are or your not (playing) you could sit there and analyze things and over think” said Komisarek. “At the end of the day, coach is going to go with who can win you hockey games. All you can do is wait for your opportunity and be ready, that’s all you can control.”
Komisarek had been a healthy scratch for an additional six games before he was inserted into the lineup for a pair of games in February. Cody Franson will serve as a healthy scratch on D tonight.
Colby Armstrong will also sit tonight.
Deal Soon for Grabovski?
Leafs GM Brian Burke says he is confident he can get a deal done with Mikhail Grabovski before the end of the season. Grabovski is set to become an unrestricted free agent and Burke elected to keep him on the team despite the risk of potentially losing him for nothing. All signs are that deal appears to be close.
“I’m very happy Brian gave me a chance to play here until the end of this season so I’m going to do my best and play really hard” says Grabovski, who also admitted that while he’s tried to ignore all the rumours he found it difficult to avoid. “I think I found more pressure when my wife said something” Grabovski joked. “Right now my head is thinking about getting points and winning the games, that’s more important than anything.”
The relief of staying in Toronto for the remainder of the season is something the Grabovski camp really appreciates. So much so, that the demands from his camp may soften as both sides now seem optimistic that a deal will get done sooner rather than later.
With all the calls for Ron Wilson’s head, it’s hard to deny the career he has had. Tonight he will coach his 1400th NHL game, it will also put him in a tie for fourth all-time alongside Pat Quinn.
The Florida Panthers leading scorer will be kept out of the lineup tonight after suffering a lower-body injury. Versteeg has three goals in six career games against his former team. Jose Theodore will be between the pipes for Florida