Archive for February, 2012
Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
By: David Alter
Carl Gunnarsson will make his return tonight as the Leafs open up a four-game home stand, beginning with the New Jersey Devils.
Gunnarsson missed the past three games after he slipped into the boards last week at practice.
Joffrey Lupul will be in the lineup, despite being a no-show at practice yesterday for maintenance.
Colby Armstrong appears to be the odd man out tonight as Joey Crabb will likely be inserted onto the team’s third line.
Mike Komisarek will again be a healthy scratch on defence.
Jonas Gustavsson will get the start against the Devils tonight. The ‘Monster’ won his previous start this season against New Jersey. He is 3-1 with a 2.65 GAA and .907 save percentage.
Martin Brodeur will counter for the Devils tonight. He has had a red-hot February where he is 6-1 with a 1.56 GAA and a .945 save percentage.
Monday, February 20th, 2012
By: David Alter
Carl Gunnarsson took part in his first full practice and is expected to make his return to the lineup tomorrow night when the Leafs kick off a four-game home stand.
Gunnarsson remains on the injured reserve for the time being. The Leafs have opened up an active roster spot for the defenceman by sending down Keith Aulie to the Marlies of the AHL.
Gunnarsson was hurt the last time the Leafs held a practice at MasterCard Centre, when he slipped in the corner and injured his ankle, forcing him to miss the entire three-game road trip out west.
“In the last couple of games we relied heavily on Carl Gunnarsson and missing him from the lineup really hurts us” Head Coach Ron Wilson said on Saturday when talking about the team’s defensive play.
Initially, Wilson had expected a Thursday return for Gunnarsson, but he insists that he isn’t rushing his defenseman along in his recovery.
“I wouldn’t play him if I didn’t think he could help us, he looked fine in practice so we expect him to play tomorrow” Wilson said. “He says he’s about 95 or 96% ready so he should be good to go.”
No Lupul at Practice
Joffrey Lupul was absent at practice, which didn’t come as a complete surprise given that he was walking around with his ankle heavily iced up following the Leafs 6-2 loss in Vancouver. The good news is Lupul’s injury is minor and his time off was for maintenance.
“Lups took a shot on the foot, I guess it was a high-ankle, it was just a maintenance thing and he should be good to go tomorrow” Wilson said.
Monster Back in Goal
Jonas Gustavsson will be between the pipes for the Maple Leafs against the Devils on Tuesday. Wilson is hoping Gustavsson’s win against the Devils in November will be something to build on.
Lines at Practice
Boyce-Steckel-Brown, extra Rosehill
Sunday, February 19th, 2012
By: David Alter
VANCOUVER – While the Canucks came into this game as a heavy favourite, the Leafs didn’t do much to close the gap as Vancouver dominated early and often in a 6-2 victory at Rogers Arena.
Any strengths the Leafs may have had in their arsenal was rendered useless, as they were out-played by a Canucks team that is worthy of their standing right now in the NHL’s Western conference.
It took until nearly eight minutes into the opening frame for the Canucks to inflict damage. A pinch-in from Leafs defenseman Keith Aulie resulted in a two-on-one situation, allowing Alex Burrows to score one of his two goals on the night.
Less than a 90 seconds following the goal, the Canucks fourth line would be rewarded thanks to a diving effort from Manny Malhotra. That gave Vancouver a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, a one-sided period in which the Canucks out-shot the Leafs 11-4.
The second period provided a brief bit of hope for the Leafs to come back. After Burrows scored again early in the frame to make it 3-0, Toronto capitalized on a nice setup from Phil Kessel, who would find Dion Phaneuf to bring the Leafs back to within two. Kessel again, would be at the centre of another opportunity while the Leafs were on the power-play. Kessel had the puck on his stick with a wide-open net, only to be stoned by Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.
From that point forward, the Leafs had nothing. The defence was nowhere to be found and a Clarke MacArthur giveaway led to Daniel Sedin goal that James Reimer could have saved had he come out of the blue ice.
“When we got the power-play Phil had the puck and he kind of half-whiffed it,” Ron Wilson said of Kessel’s open net opportunity.
Having given up four goals on 18 shots, Reimer was pulled in favour of Jonas Gustavsson, but he didn’t fare too much better, allowing a goal on his second shot, a point shot from Sami Salo. Matthew Lombardi appeared to have the Leafs out of a trouble spot but he didn’t get all of the puck on his clear, which allowed the Canucks to stay deep in Toronto’s zone.
“You can’t fault James” said Wilson of Reimer. “They had a number of two-on-ones where they pinched. They don’t need a lot to make you pay and tonight they made us pay.”
Reimer didn’t get a lot of help thanks to turnovers but felt he still had a handle on things.
“I thought for the most part I was able to battle through traffic and see and if I couldn’t see I thought I was still in good position,” said Reimer.
Simply put, the team needs to play better. The Leafs are fortunate that after dropping five games in their past six, they still hang onto eight place in the Eastern Conference. The Canucks improved their dominance over the Maple Leafs as Toronto hasn’t beat Vancouver in ten games dating back to November of 2003.
Joffrey Lupul had his foot in a bag of ice following the game while Darryl Boyce had his finger bandaged up after grabbing a puck in mid-air. Neither injury appears to be serious that would see some missed time, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Friday, February 17th, 2012
By: David Alter
VANCOUVER — Luke Schenn will return to the lineup follwoing a one-game absence while James Reimer will be back between the pipes as the Maple Leafs visit the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday.
Schenn was a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime win in Edmonton. It was the second instance this season where Schenn was given a night off to check out the view up in the press box.
“It’s never fun sitting out,” says Schenn. “Sometimes I guess it’s a different approach to get a player going, when I get back in I’ve got to make the most of it.”
Head Coach Ron Wilson says while Schenn’s play has fallen off a bit, the move had more to do with giving Mike Komisarek consecutive looks, in addition to the amount of depth the team has on the back end.
“The hard part for us is with seven or eight defenseman in the organisation who are NHL capable is keeping everyone involved” says Wilson. “Luke had been off for a couple of games and I wanted to make sure that Mike Komisarek who had sat four, five games in-a-row, got an opportunity not to just play in one game but play in a couple of games. So Luke had to sit one out but he’ll be playing tomorrow.”
Based on the lines the Leafs used at practice, Schenn will be paired with Jake Gardiner while Mike Komisarek appears to be the odd man out.
Komisarek sat out six consecutive games as a healthy scratch before returning for games in Calgary and Edmonton.
James Reimer will be back between the pipes following his 29 save performance on Thursday. Reimer says he felt good in that game despite criticism from his coach that he appeared shaky at first.
“I felt good that game, it was huge for us to get the win, and it was good to get some confidence,” says Reimer. “Obviously there were some goals I’d like to have back but not much we can do about that now. Time to build from that and try to get a win here.
Carl Gunnarsson took part in practice for the first time since sustaining a sprained ankle before this current road trip. Gunnarsson skated with the team for about 25 minutes but didn’t take part in the full session. He hopes to return on Tuesday, which would be the earliest he’d be eligible to be activated under IR rules.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” says Gunnarson. But I’ve got to practice 100% first before anything else so we have to see how it goes for the next couple of days”
Wilson is hoping for a return no later than Thursday.
With reports circulating about Mikhail Grabovski’s immediate future in Toronto, the Leafs centre answered questions pertaining to trade offers that have been going around.
“For me, I play right now here and my team is the Toronto Maple Leafs and I give my best here” says Grabovski. “I want to play for the Maple Leafs as much as I can. I don’t read the papers or listen to radio, I just play hockey.”
Grabovski is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Contract talks are currently ongoing with Leafs management. Term appears to be the main issue more than anything else.
Grabovski’s is reported to be looking for a deal worth as long as seven years. Given GM Brian Burke’s philosophy on contracts, five years would be the absolute max. Still, Grabovski isn’t sweating it.
“For me there is no pressure I don’t care where I play. If I’m with the Maple Leafs right now I play for the Leafs.
Nik Kulemin and Tim Connolly have reverted back to their old lines. Kulemin was back with Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur while Tim Connolly returned to centre Matthew Lombardi and Colby Armstromg.
Lines at Practice
Extras: Crabb, Rosehill
Thursday, February 16th, 2012
By: David Alter
EDMONTON – It was exciting, maybe a little too exciting. But in the end, the Maple Leafs got the winner in overtime from an unlikely hero to snap a four game slide, beating the Oilers 4-3 in overtime.
Having only scored one goal in their past two games, the Leafs doubled that in the first 1:38 of the hockey game thanks to quick goals from Joffrey Lupul and Matthew Lombardi.
The Oilers fourth line would then capitalize on the Leafs just under a minute later as Ben Eager would cut the lead to one, a goal that would have never happened had James Reimer not played the puck off Eager’s dump-in.
“It was just a miscue,” says Reimer. “I thought it would be too tight so I didn’t want it to come in front of me and possibly give a chance for a guy to whack at it. It was my bad. Obviously Gards (Gardiner) thought I was going to leave it so just a miscommunication and we’ll work it out.”
In the second period Reimer would be put to the test as the Oilers dominated the puck possession. The Leafs had a difficult time getting out of their zone and Taylor Hall would capitalize after a pretty pass from Sam Gagner.
The Oilers out-shot the Leafs 13-3 in the middle frame and hit a couple of posts (one from Magnus Paajarvi and another from Ales Hemsky.)
In the third period, the Maple Leafs would take advantage on the power-play. It would take Jake Gardner only ten seconds after the Oilers were called for clearing the puck over the glass, after he fired a bullet from the point that got past a screened Nikolai Khabibulin.
On their heals the Leafs would give up the equalizer to Jordan Eberle with just under five minutes to go in regulation time.
In OT, it would be Tim Connolly who would score the game-winner after the Leafs were caught on a three-on-one. Dion Phaneuf would bac- track to tie up Ryan Whitney’s stick as he was going in for the shot. That created the turnover that essentially won it for Toronto.
“I was lucky to catch him,” said Phaneuf of the play. “When we turned it over I tried to skate as hard as I could to get back, when they dropped the puck I tried to get under his stick and luckily I got it.”
Connolly went into this game with the flu and was on an intravenous prior to the game to get hydrated. He snapped a 17-game goalless skid with the winner in.
It was end-to-end all night, the style that plays to the Leafs’ strengths. The broblem now lies is there defensive play is still a key-issue and teams like Vancouver (who they see next) will create many problems for Toronto.
Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
By: David Alter
CALGARY –All it took was the opening half of the first period for the Flames to do enough damage and send the Leafs to a season high four-game losing streak.
Missing Carl Gunnarsson after the defenceman was placed on the injured reserve, Mike Komisarek re-entered the lineup after sitting out the past six games as a healthy scratch. He started the game with Dion Phaneuf as the Leafs tried to stay away from shifting pairings too much. Clearly, it didn’t help.
Flames forward Alex Tanguay would open the scoring as he would get a feed pass from behind the net and fire a shot in the slot trough Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. The puck would find the back of the net thanks to Luke Schenn staying back towards the goal, screening Jonas Gustavsson.
Just three-and-a-half minutes later, Komisarek would get caught on the blue-line trying to take out Jerome Iginla. Unsuccessful, the miss created a three-on-one resulting in an Olli Jokinen goal to make it a 2-0 Flames lead.
The Leafs would get one back towards the end of the period but Miikka Kirpusoff was just too much on this night, making 41 saves in the win.
Phaneuf had his own troubles in the second period, when a hook on Paul Byron resulted in the Flames first penalty shot of the season. Byron wouldn’t miss.
“It was a mistake on my part” says Phaneuf. “I got my stick caught in there, I tried to poke it. It was a bad decision and we move on.”
The problems defensively now has Maple Leafs Head Coach Ron Wilson considering his options the following night in Edmonton. The return of Komisarek didn’t yield the results that the team was looking for.
“It’s a tough to come back in your first game” says Wilson “Komo was trying to be physical and moving pucks and he did the best that he could.”
Aulie In Edmonton
Wilson hinted following the game that Keith Aulie may be inserted into the lineup in Edmonton to play alongside Dion Phaneuf.
“He’s got a history of playing well with Dion” says Wilson. “That’ll give Jake (Gardiner) an opportunity to play with somebody else and he can help somebody else because by far Jake was our best defenceman.”
It wouldn’t be the first time that Aulie is thrown right onto the top defensive unit following a call-up. Aulie played with Phaneuf when called upon back in November 27th to make his season debut.
It wasn’t as obvious for Tim Connolly, but Nik Kulemin had a lot more jump in his step and had several near goals in Calgary. Kulemin had Kiprusoff beat on a wraparound only to lose the handle on the puck at the last second. Wilson had praise for both guys following the game, but felt Tyler Bozak was his best forward on the night.
Gustavsson vs Reimer
Hard to blame the Monster on a night like this. He was hung to dry for the most part having been screened on the opening goal and then left completely helpless on the eventual game winner. Still the Monster now falls to 0-3 all-time against Calgary with a 4.45 goals against averafe and .855 save percentage. Expect the Leafs to go back with Reimer in goal.
Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
By: David Alter
CALGARY — The Maple Leafs have placed defenceman Carl Gunnarsson on the injured-reserve and will miss a week with a sprained right ankle.
Gunnarsson was injured at practice yesterday after going hard into the boards while getting tangled up with Jay Rosehill.
Keith Aulie (called up from the Marlies) flew into Calgary this morning and arrived in time to make it to the morning skate. But it will be Mike Komisarek who will enter the lineup after sitting the past six games as a healthy scratch.
“It’s unfortunate that Gunner has gone down, he’s been one of our top blue-liners all year” says Komisarek. “It’s some big shoes to fill and I just want to contribute and I’m looking forward to it.”
Gunnarsson has averaged in the 20 minutes/game range and was consistently playing on the top defensive pairing with Dion Phaneuf. Komisarek feels he may get some time with Phaneuf while the coach says the responsibilities will be spread out.
“We have to spread the minutes around, the primary guys will be Dion (Phaneuf) Gardsy (Jake Gardiner) and (John-Michael) Liles and obviously we’ll parse the other minutes around” says Head Coach Ron Wilson. “We’re going to have to spread it around, particularly because we have another game to play tomorrow.”
The good news for the relatively healthy Maple Leafs, is that it appears Gunnarsson’s injury is only a minor issue and they aren’t dealing with a high-ankle sprain, similar to what Colby Armstrong went through which kept him out for several weeks.
Speaking of Armstrong, he’ll sit out as a healthy scratch for the second game in-a-row, as Darryl Boyce has earned himself another performance with the fourth-line tonight
The Maple Leafs haven’t won in Calgary since December of 2002. Jonas Gustavsson gets the nod in goal for the Leafs. The ‘Monster’ has been in goal for the previous two visits to the Saddledome and he’s struggled, going a career 0-2 vs. the Flames, a .875 save percentage and a goals against average of 4.05. This year is different has been much different for Gustavsson and the pressure is squarely on him to try and help the Leafs avoid losing four in-a-row for the first time this season.
Tim Connolly and Nik Kulemin swap roles on the second and third lines as Ron Wilson hopes to squeeze more out of forwards who have had a hard time trying to find the net.
Rotation of, Phaneuf, Gardiner, Liles, Franson, Schenn and Komisarek
Monday, February 13th, 2012
By: David Alter
Following the Maple Leafs blowout loss at home to the Canadiens, Head Coach Ron Wilson mixed things up with his forwards in an attempt to get a couple of struggling players back on track.
Tim Connolly has shifted over to the wing for the first time this season, a move that re-unites him with Clarke MacArthur, while playing with Mikhail Grabovski for the first time.
Connolly has amassed just three assists over the last 16 games, while being without a goal since January 5th.
“We’ve been winning hockey games which is the most important thing until this skid we’ve had” says Connolly. “Last few games have been frustrating because we’ve been losing hockey games. For me it’s about winning, I just have to show up everyday and hope we can do everything we can do to win.“
Connolly spends a lot of time on the primary PK unit. He’s also on the secondary power-play team so his ice-time is quite spread out.
Nik Kulemin’s struggles continue as he has gone 14 games without a goal. He last scored on January 10th.
Gunnarsson Status In Doubt
With the tempo of practice at its highest, the Maple Leafs got a bit of a scare as Carl Gunnarsson fell hard into the corner boards feet first after slipping in a collision with Jay Rosehill
“We’re not sure” said Wilson on the severity of Gunnarsson’s injury. “He’s going to need an image on it so we’ll wait until we get to Calgary. He’ll get it checked out and hopefully it’s not too serious”
This may open up the door for Mike Komisarek to finally get back into the lineup after sitting out the past six games as a healthy scratch.
No Word On Starting Goaltender
Following a not-so great performance for James Reimer, Ron Wilson says he has yet to make up his mind on a starting goaltender for tomorrow’s game in Calgary. One has to think it will be Jonas Gustavsson’s turn to get a chance. With back-to-back games in Calgary and Edmonton, there is a good shot you may see a split.
Boyce-Steckel-Brown-Armstrong, extra: Rosehill
Saturday, February 11th, 2012
Thursday, February 9th, 2012
By: David Alter
PHILADELPHIA — With the NHL’s worst kept secret finally made public, the Maple Leafs were about to comment publicly on taking part in the festivies, culminating with main event set for January 1st, 2013 at The Big House, at Michigan Spartans Stadium.
Check out Head Coach Ron Wilson and Leafs Captain Dion Phaneuf as they react to the news.
Colby Armstrong is known as being one of the funny guys in the room. With the possibility of the cameras being back for anothet 24/7 documentary, Armstrong is likely to be one of the stars featured. Armstrong, however, says he feels Tyler Bozak would be a good for the show.
“I think he’s gonna be good for the camera, he’s gonna be really good, playing it up, being a beauty and sniffing for the camera time” says Armstrong.
Reimer Back In Goal
The Maple Leafs will go with James Reimer between the pipes tonight. Reimer has won his previous three starts in which he posted back-t0-back shutouts. Remer has posted a GAA of 1.00 and save percentage of .971 over this stretch.
There will be no other changes to the Leafs lineup. Mike Komisarek, Darryl Boyce and Jay Rosehill will be scratches.
The Flyers counter with Sergei Bobrovsky in goal. Ilya Bryzgalov was not at the morning skate due to the flu.