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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 6:07 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Stamkos has chance to reach 60 in hometown

Toronto native Steven Stamkos has already set a career high with 58 goals. The Tampa Bay Lightning star has a chance to be the first NHL player since Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08 to reach the 60-goal plateau -- and he'd love nothing more than to do it in his own backyard.

"I think doing it in my home city with a lot of friends and family would be special, but I am not trying to think about that too much," Stamkos said after Tampa Bay's morning skate prior to the Lightning's game against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Thursday night, "I know everyone is going to be trying to get me the puck, no matter what I say -- that's the kind of guys we have on our team. But it would mean a lot more to me if we were closer or if we were in the playoffs."

When Stamkos reached and surpassed 50 goals for the first time in 2009-10, he did it by scoring five times in his last four games. He's riding another season-ending hot streak with eight goals in his last seven games, but the 22-year-old isn't necessarily buying into the notion there is a push to reach 60 goals.

"The 50-goal plateau is kind of the number in hockey and I hadn't done before that in my career," he said. "We were kind of out of the playoffs. I probably had 30 shots in the last three games with guys were just trying to get me the puck the whole time. I mean it's a big deal to even get the chance to get that number. ... Guys are looking to pass to me, that's obvious over the past couple of games but it's not something I'm pressing."

Martin St. Louis, who leads the club in assists with 47, admits that with a 60-goal season for his linemate in sight, there might be an added incentive for Stamkos' teammates to get the puck to No. 91 whenever possible. "Maybe you tend to look for him a little more with a deadline like this and being so close to a goal," he said, "but he is hard not to look for just because of how good of a goal scorer he is."

Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:46 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Lupul skates, laments season-ending shoulder injury

TORONTO -- Ahead of their last home game of the season, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul was on the ice Thursday morning. He skated for the first time since succumbing to a shoulder injury on March 6. He will not be in the lineup against Tampa and will also miss the final game of the season in Montreal.

"Hopefully another week or so of rehab and working on some things and I'll be ready 100 percent," said the 28-year-old Lupul, who was arguably Toronto's most valuable player this season before the injury. He had a career-high 67 points in 66 games.

Lupul, who has faced his fair share of set backs throughout his career, feels the timing of the injury could not have been worse.

"It was extra tough because we we're still in the midst of a playoff chase," he said. "We had been struggling right before I went out, and then to watch what happened over the next couple of weeks was pretty difficult. ... Everything went wrong, we didn't get the job done as a team."

Fellow Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski, who is recovering from a leg laceration suffered this past Saturday, also hit the ice but is not expected to play Thursday evening.

Tampa did not hold a skate after playing last night in Montreal, falling to the Canadiens, 5-2.

Here are the Maple Leafs' projected lines:

Matt Frattin - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Matthew Lombardi - Joey Crabb
Tim Connolly - David Steckel - Mike Brown
Jay Rosehill - Carter Ashton - Colby Armstrong

Dion Phaneuf - Mike Komisarek
John Michael-Liles - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Ben Scrivens
Jonas Gustavsson
Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 5:59 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Myers out for Sabres against Maple Leafs

The Buffalo Sabres will be without defenseman Tyler Myers and Mike Weber as they play a pivotal game Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. 

The Sabres are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, tied in points with the Washington Capitals who have more non-shootout victories.  The Capitals play host to the Canadiens on Saturday.

While Weber was expected to miss the game, the news about Myers came as more of a shock.

“He’s going to miss tonight’s game,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff matter of factly, adding that Myers is “Day-to-day right now.”

Because of the injuries, Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan are expected to play on the back end for Buffalo.

“You’ve got to live off your experiences, we had some really good play out of Brayden," Ruff said. "We had some good play out of T.J.  It’s just handling the extra minutes and where we put them that has sometimes been a problem.  I think we are going to try and get them some good ice time and see how the other pairs make out.”

Because of the conundrum his club faces, Ruff is counting on his forwards to pick up the slack with two of his regular defenseman out of the lineup.

“We have to deal with it better this time than we did last time," Ruff said. "We’re a little deeper up front.  We might have to score a little more. I think we are capable of that. I think our forwards have to pick up a little bit of the slack, we need to control more of the play and take the pressure off our D in this situation.”

Ruff acknowledged that Myers injury came after taking a shot in the foot of a 5-3 loss Friday to Pittsburgh.  Weber was felled by a Matt Cooke hit in the same game.

While Ruff would not confirm that Miller is starting in net, there is a good bet he will be between the pipes as playing on back-to-back nights is not uncommon for the Sabres.

“We’re used to dealing with it, we’ve tried to adapt, do the right things, but it’s just part of our schedule," Ruff said.
Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 3:26 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Gustavsson out, but could return next week for Leafs

Jonas Gustavsson took a shot off his left knee in the warm up prior to a 7-1 loss Thursday to the Philadelphia Flyers.  Gustavsson had to be helped to the dressing room where he recieved treatment and then returned to the bench at the start of the second period. When asked if his keeper would be lost for the balance of the season, Randy Carlyle indicated that was not the case. 

"Jonas Gustavsson is not available [today]," Carlyle said Saturday morning. "I think the improvement he showed between yesterday and today was very encouraging. The bruise and where it is affects his ability to get up, get down and move around the crease.  It's not anything other than a deep bruise. As crazy as it sounds, why there is no padding there is beyond me."

Meanwhile, Jussi Rynnas will back up Ben Scrivens against the Sabres.  He spent part of the morning skate working on positioning with Leafs goaltending coach Francois Allaire. 

"He wanted me to do everything a little bit faster, with a little bit more control, play the right corners and find the post, those things," Rynnas said.

Rynnas was pressed into his first NHL start Thursday and said his teamates were encouraging after he allowed seven goals on 30 shots. 

"I'm not going to put my head down, its helped me so much that guys said things like the team made mistakes too," he said.
Posted On Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 3:13 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Scrivens expected to start in goal for Leafs

Ben Scrivens is expected to start in goal Saturday for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they face the Buffalo Sabres for the fifth time this season. 

Scrivens has eight career games under his belt, all played this season.  The bulk of his workload was in November, shortly after James Reimer sustained a concussion in Montreal on October 22nd.  He has posted a 2-4-1 record, and his last start was November 20th in Carolina where he had 38 saves in a 3-2 loss. 

“I played a couple of games, Monster [Jonas Gustavsson] was playing really good at that time too, in my mind it was never – I’m here for good, it was focus one day at a time and be ready to go if I was playing that day and if I wasn’t...try and get as much as I could from practice.” said Scrivens by his dressing room stall after a spirited morning skate at Air Canada Centre. “That is my approach at this point too, exactly what I was saying before, one game at a time”

Less than 24 hours prior, his focus was with the Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate.  Scrivens stopped 33 shots in a 5-4 overtime win against Buffalo's AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, Scrivens and after the game found out that he was called up.

“It’s the life of a third [goalie] I guess, you always got to be ready, you never know when things are gonna’ change and they can change overnight," Scrivens said. "My focus last night was on beating Rochester and we had a gutsy overtime win – hopped in a car and came up here.  If I’m going tonight – I’ll be ready.”

The Maple Leafs are facing a tumultuous time with 5-17-3 record in their last 25 games and mounting player frustration along with fan backlash.  However, Scrivens is not phased -- in large part because of the success of his AHL club.

“When we are down with the Marlies, we’re not counting off points for the Leafs and seeing about their playoff push, we’re worried about ourselves down there and we’ve got ourselves in a good position for the playoffs,” Scrivens said.

Defenseman Mike Komisarek confirmed he will be in the lineup tonight, which means Cody Franson is likely to sit.

After a 5-3 loss Friday night to Pittsburgh, the Sabres have yet another crucial game in their push for the playoffs.  They currently sit in ninth position in the Eastern Conference, tied in points with the eighth place Washington Capitals but with fewer non-shootout victories. Washington plays host to Montreal on Saturday evening.  They will also know by puck drop if they can catch the seventh-place Senators, who play Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. They trail Ottawa by just two points.

“I think Buffalo has been a team that has really turned their team around specifically in the last 25 games," said Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, whose Ducks lost 4-1 to the Sabres in Helsinki, Finland October 7, in what was the opening game of the NHL season for both clubs. 

Carlyle also spoke of his players need to be less apprehensive. 

“The fear factor around our group is very high right now and when you play with fear it doesn’t allow you to do the things that naturally come to can’t play the game in total fear,” he said.

As expected, after playing last night, Buffalo had only four players take to the ice Saturday morning -- forwards Jochan Hecht, Matt Ellis and Nathan Gerbe and goaltender Jhnonas Enroth.

The clubs have split their first four meetings, with the home team winning each time.

Here is the projected lineup for the Maple Leafs:

Matt Frattin - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski -Joey Crabb
Carter Ashton - Tim Connolly - Mike Brown
Jay Rosehill - Matthew Lombardi - Colby Armstrong
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Mike Komisarek
Ben Scrivens
Jussi Rynnas

Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 2:47 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Likely lineups for Flyers, Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- Here are the expected lineups the Flyers and Maple Leafs will use Thursday when they face off at Air Canada Centre:

Matthew Lombardi - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Matt Frattin
Carter Ashton - Tim Connolly - Joey Crabb
Jay Rosehill - Colby Armstrong - Mike Brown

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson

Jonas Gustavsson
Jussi Rynnas

With James Reimer out with an upper-body injury, Gustavsson likely will start the remainder of the games.

David Steckel will be a game-time decision because of a lower-body injury.

"I've got a sheet of paper, there's about 15 different combinations I have put down there." said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. "I would think that you are going to see Tim Connolly go to the middle with Carter Ashton and (Joey) Crabb, that is tentatively on one of those little pieces of paper."

Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn - Danny Briere - Wayne Simmonds
Sean Couturier - Maxime Talbot - Zac Rinaldo
Matt Read - Eric Wellwood - Jakub Voracek

Braydon Coburn - Nicklas Grossman
Matt Carle - Marc-Andre Bourdon
Pavel Kubina - Erik Gustafsson

Sergei Bobrovsky
Jason Bacashihua

The Flyers are without goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and defenseman Kimmo Timonen, neither of whom made the trip. Bryzgalov has a chip fracture in his right foot, while Timonen is taking a game off to treat an upper-body injury.
Posted On Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 2:13 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Lindros joins Flyers for morning skate

TORONTO -- The Flyers had a special guest on the ice at their morning skate Thursday here at Air Canada Centre -- Eric Lindros, who skated onto the ice in his old black and orange colors, wearing a black helmet, emblazoned with No.  88.

"It was a lot of fun," said Lindros, who spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Flyers. "Anytime you can wake up and head to this building and go have some fun on the ice, it's a blast."

He joined the club at the behest of Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.

"(Holmgren) gave me a call, said come down to the room, say hello to the guys, go out for a skate," said Lindros.

Philadelphia is back at Air Canada Centre for the second time this month in hopes of sweeping the season series with the Maple Leafs. Philadelphia currently sits fifth in the Eastern Conference, four points behind the Penguins for the final home-ice slot in the playoffs.

On March 10, Philadelphia came up with a 1-0 victory on the strength of a beautiful shootout goal by Claude Giroux. Ilya Bryzgalov earned the shutout victory that night, but will not play and is not with the team due to a chip fracture in his right foot suffered Monday. Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to get the start in goal, with Jason Bacashihua recalled from AHL Adirondack to serve as the backup.

Defenseman Kimmo Timonen also did not make the trip for the Flyers, with Marc-Andre Bourdon called up from the AHL on Wednesday to play in his place.
Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 6:49 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Rangers projected lineups

TORONTO -- Despite playing back-to-back nights, Rangers coach John Tortorella has elected to go with Henrik Lundqvist when the club meets the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the Air Canada Centre.

"He has plenty of rest, our team has had plenty of rest," Tortorella said late this afternoon. "They are off again tomorrow. I think we have done what we need to do with the club as far as resting. We need to also get need to get Hank into some sort of flow as far as playing games – so he goes tonight."

Lundqvist has lost twice to Toronto this season and was on the bench in place of Martin Biron in the lone victory against the Maple Leafs, a 3-0 blanking at the Air Canada Centre on Jan. 14.

The Rangers not only lost last night's contest 4-1 to Buffalo, but they also lost forward Mats Zuccarello to a broken wrist, which he suffered in the first period. While Tortorella did not tip his hand as to who will fill the void left by Zuccarello, the odds-on favorite is veteran Ruslan Fedotenko.
"I know Feds very well … he is a good player and has been a good player for us," Tortorella said. "This is the time of year where he needs to find his defensive game and offensive game, and I believe he will."

Fedotenko has been a healthy scratch for the last two games. In 65 games played this season, he has eight goals and eight assists along with a minus-10 rating. He has been in the lineup for all three games against Toronto this season.
Here are the projected lines for the Rangers:

Brandon DubinskyDerek StepanRyan Callahan
Carl HagelinBrad RichardsMarian Gaborik
Artem AnisimovBrian BoyleRuslan Fedotenko
Brandon PrustJohn MitchellMike Rupp

Ryan McDonaghDan Girardi
Marc StaalMichael Del Zotto
Tim ErixonStu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Posted On Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 2:33 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Rangers out to retain hold on first in East

The New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs meet for a fourth and final time Saturday at Air Canada Centre. Toronto took the first two games of the season series but lost 3-0 to the Rangers in their last meeting.
While Martin Biron earned the shutout in that game, the Rangers will start Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed four goals Friday night in a loss to the surging Buffalo Sabres.  The All-Star netminder was in net for both losses earlier in the season to Toronto.
New York sits atop the Eastern Conference but they are in a fight with the Pittsburgh Penguins for that mantle.  A loss in Toronto, combined with a Penguins win in Ottawa, will vault Pittsburgh ahead of the Rangers.
The Maple Leafs are also playing the second of back- to-back contests.  Nazem Kadri scored a lovely shootout goal, faking to the backhand and then going forehand to beat Martin Brodeur and give Toronto a 4-3 victory Friday night in New Jersey.
“I am pretty happy with how it ended,” said Kardi of his heroics at Prudential Center.  “It was pretty nerve wracking going in one-on-one with Marty Brodeur.” 
He also scored a goal in regulation, which gives him five on the season.
The young forward has spent the majority of the season with the Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, and was called up on an emergency basis Thursday along with forward Ryan Hamilton after Matt Frattin and Clarke MacArthur both went down to injuries.
The seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft had his first opportunity to play for coach Randy Carlyle on Friday. Carlyle was complimentary of Kadri, but feels that there is much more work ahead for the 21-year-old.
“I don’t want things to get blown out of proportion, that’s one thing about this market, when somebody has success there is a lot of accolades and he earned them last night.” Carlyle said. “But he is a young player that has to push to be better, and give us the type of minutes that are safe ... he has areas to improve and defensive play would be one of them.”
James Reimer stopped 43 shots to earn the victory against the Devils, but there was no indication whether he or Jonas Gustavsson will be starting against the Rangers. Gustavsson has been in net for all three meetings with the Rangers this season.
Injured forward Mike Brown skated Saturday, one of nine forwards and defenseman that took part in the optional skate. He indicated that he is still not ready to play at this juncture but hopes to return within the week.
“I guess if there is practice tomorrow, I will go full practice with the team and hopefully get a few practices in before Tuesday and if not Tuesday then maybe Thursday,” Brown said. “At this point, [I’ll] just see how it is every day and listen to the trainers and wait for them to tell me if I am OK to play.”
Carlyle also expressed that he will go with a similar lineup to the one he deployed Friday night. Here is the projected lineup for the Leafs:
Matthew Lombardi - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Nazem Kadri - Mikhail Grabovski - Ryan Hamilton
Tim Connolly - David Steckel - Joey Crabb
Jay Rosehill - Carter Ashton - Colby Armstrong

Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson
Mike Komisarek - John Michael-Liles
Luke Schenn - Jake Gardiner
Cody Franson

Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer

Posted On Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 5:40 PM

By Neil Acharya - Correspondent / - At the Rink blog

Leafs try to bounce back vs. Islanders

TORONTO -- Less than 24 hours after an 8-0 loss at Boston completed the Bruins' sweep of the six-game season series against Toronto, the Maple Leafs have the opportunity to sweep a series of their own tonight against the New York Islanders.

"Just from last night, I think it's huge to get a bounce back here," defenseman Carl Gunnarsson said. "It's always good to get back home after being on the road for 10 days. In all ways for everyone, I think it's good to be back home again."

The Maple Leafs finished their five-game road trip with 2-3-0 record.

Despite the fact that they have beaten the Islanders on three occasions this season by a combined score of 12-6 and can go a perfect 4-0 on the season against a conference foe, Gunnarsson and his mates are still focusing on the bigger picture.

"Looking at the standings, it doesn't matter what team we play, what we've done before against that team, we just want to win every game," he said. "If we sweep the Islanders and not make the playoffs, it doesn't mean anything."

The Maple Leafs are eight points out of eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race with nine games remaining. Despite the almost insurmountable task, defenseman John Michael-Liles feels that the only way for the club to look is forward.

"Unfortunately games like that are going to happen and you move on from it. (We have to )go into every game and try and get two points, that's all we can focus on is going out and try and win every game and giving ourselves the best opportunity to get two points each and every night."

Liles and Gunnarsson ended up with a combined minus-5 rating in Boston. They were hardly alone in that department -- only three Leafs finished without a minus rating. Jay Rosehill and Colby Armstrong both ended up even at TD Garden, as did Matthew Lombardi who will play in his 500th career game tonight.

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— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after tying the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with an assist on Duncan Keith's goal with 26.6 seconds left against the Anaheim Ducks Friday
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