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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final
POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 3:05 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Leafs have reinforcements for battle with Wings

The Toronto Maple Leafs will have some new faces in the lineup Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings and will also have the services of their captain Dion Phaneuf, whose status was up in the air after being hit in the face with a puck Thursday against Winnipeg. 

“Nothing got broke, he didn’t lose any teeth, most hockey players I know would be back and Dion is no different.  We need Dion in the lineup, not just for leadership, he is easily our best defenseman.” said Toronto coach Ron Wilson after the morning skate. “When you are playing a team like Detroit, you want to make sure you have as many hands on deck as possible.”

Forward Mike Brown will return to the lineup for the first time since November 15th, while oft-injured Mike Komisarek is back on defense after missing 21 games with a broken arm.  He is expected to be partnered with Cody Franson.

“Unfortunately I have been in this position a few times where I have been hurt and had to battle back,” said Komisarek, who has played 127 games as Leaf in three seasons since signing as a free agent in the summer of 2009. “The good thing about this time was I had the opportunity to skate early on when I was recovering from the injury. Your first game back you always play really simple.”

While healthy bodies return for the Leafs, Detroit will remain without two key cogs in Tomas Holmstrom and Darren Helm because of groin injuries.  In their place are forwards, Gustav Nyquist, who recorded his first NHL point in the Wings’ last game Tuesday at Dallas and Chris Connor, who has three points in six games this season.  He last played on Dec. 13.

The Wings boast the second most home wins in the NHL but are below .500 on the road. 

“Why is that?” asked Detroit coach Mike Babcock rhetorically.  “If I had the answer we’d fix it. The bottom line is we think our game is getting better and continues to grow and so it has to continue to grow and tonight is a big part of that.”

Jimmy Howard, whose 24 wins leads the NHL, will aim for his 100th career victory tonight and relishes the opportunity to do so in front of a sell-out crowd in Toronto and with the large audience that comes with a nationally televised Saturday night game.
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POSTED ON Saturday, 01.07.2012 / 1:41 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Red Wings, Maple Leafs

Here are the projected lineups for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. They meet tonight at Air Canada Centre:

MAPLE LEAFS
 
Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel
Joey Crabb - Mikhail Grabovski -Nikolai Kulemin
Clarke MacArthur - Matthew Lombardi - Nazem Kadri
Darryl Boyce - David Steckel - Mike Brown
 
Keith Aulie - Dion Phaneuf
Carl Gunnarsson - Luke Schenn
Cody Franson - Mike Komisarek
 
Jonas Gustavsson
 
RED WINGS
 
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valteri Filppula -Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Danny Cleary
Gustav Nyquist - Corey Emmerton, Chris Conner
 
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jakub Kind - Jonathan Ericsson
 
Jimmy Howard

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 3:48 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Stamkos back home as Lightning face Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- Steven Stamkos, the NHL's leading goal scorer, is back home for the first time this season as the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I talked about it since day one, it's nice to come back and play in front of friends and family. It's always a special time for me and a big time for our team right now with the position we're in," said Stamkos, who was named the League's first star for the past week.

Currently, the Lightning have won three games in a row and Stamkos is eager for the club to continue to its recent play.

"We obviously wanted to have a better start but I think we have cleaned up our game drastically over the past 10 games," Stamkos said. "We may have not gotten the results we wanted to in a couple of them, but the last three for sure we have really tightened up defensively and we need another big game tonight.”

While the Lightning have gone 6-3-1 in the past 10 and are on the rise in the Eastern Conference, the Maple Leafs have struggled, losing three games in a row, and are 3-5-2 in their past 10 games.

If the Leafs are going to right the ship, taking advantage of home ice will be key. Tonight marks the first of a season-high nine home games this month.

"It's up to us to determine home ice advantage and go out and play well," Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "It seems here in Toronto that you don't get very many teams that come in often and have an off night. Everybody gets fired up to play here in Toronto, so your advantage is taken a away a little bit, but we will try to push the pace and make it a home ice advantage."

Ron Wilson who will give Jonas Gustavsson his first start since December 17th versus Vancouver. 

"It's a tough team," Gustavsson said. "(They have) always been tight games against them and I'm sure it will be another one tonight."

Notes: Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman remains out of the lineup with a concussion and did not make the trip to Toronto.

Toronto made a minor deal this afternoon, dealing forward Luca Caputi to Anaheim for forward Nicolas Deschamps.  Forward Phillipe Dupuis was also assigned to the AHL Toronto Marlies after clearing waivers, while defenseman Korbinian Holzer was recalled.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 01.03.2012 / 3:00 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lines for Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- Here are the projected lines for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who face the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at Air Canada Centre:

Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel
Joey Crabb - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Clarke MacArthur - Matthew Lombardi - Nazem Kadri
Darryl Boyce - David Steckel - Matt Frattin

Keith Aulie - Dion Phaneuf
Carl Gunnarsson - Luke Schenn
Jake Gardiner - Cody Franson
 
Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 2:14 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Skinner out for shorthanded Hurricanes

TORONTO -- The struggling Carolina Hurricanes will also be shorthanded Tuesday night when they face the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Hurricanes are 2-7-1 in their past 10 games and coach Kirk Muller, who is already without Joni Pitkanen and Jay Harrison will also be without the services of 2011 Calder Trophy winner, Jeff Skinner, who remained in North Carolina for a medical evaluation.
 
It is something of a homecoming for Kirk Muller, who hails from Kingston Ontario, half-way between Toronto and Montreal (where he won the Stanley Cup in 1993). The Maple Leafs and Canadiens are two of the six teams he played for in his 22-year NHL career.

“[I’m an] Ontario boy, so it’s always nice to come to Toronto,” Muller said. “It’s always a great atmosphere, a lot of friends and family but I’m excited because we had a couple of days to work on some stuff and our guys recovered and are ready for a big game tonight.”

Carolina is only 26th in the NHL on the power play at 13.1 percent for the season, but the Hurricanes have converted 3 of 9 chances in the past two games.

“[We’ve made] a couple of personnel moves [on the power play], it’s more of calming things down,” Muller said. “When you are not winning you force things, I try to tell the guys, there is a lot of skill here, believe in the plays, work them and do it consistently and over time you will get some production.”

A successful power play from an opposing team might not be good news for the Leafs. Seven of the past nine goals allowed by Toronto in the past three games have come with the opponent on the man advantage.

“We’ve practiced our PK,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “It’s been poor the last two games. The previous 10 or 15 it was pretty good, so we have a bit of an anomaly, none the less, we’ve spent the last two days putting probably an hour of our two hours of practice to penalty killing.”

Phil Kessel enters this game in a three-way tie in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy. He has 18 goals and is second in the League with 36 points.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 1:13 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs, Hurricanes

TORONTO -- Here is what the lineups could look like when the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes take the ice tonight in Toronto.

MAPLE LEAFS

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Tim Connolly - Colby Armstrong
Matt Frattin - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Joey Crabb- David Steckel - Philippe Dupuis
 
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
 
James Reimer will start in goal, with Jonas Gustavsson the backup.
 
Colton Orr, Jay Rosehill and Keith Aulie will be healthy scratches.

HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Patrick Dwyer
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Drayson Bowman - Brandon Sutter - Chad Larose
Andreas Nodl - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Tim Gleason - Jamie McBain
Jaroslav Spacek - Justin Faulk
Bryan Allan - Derek Joslin

Cam Ward will start in goal, with Mike Murphy the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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POSTED ON Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 4:24 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Grabovski back in for Leafs

TORONTO -- Congratulations are in order for Mikhail Grabovski, whose girlfriend gave birth to the couple's child earlier today. That means Grabovski will be available for tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils.

With that in mind, here's how the new-look Leafs could line up tonight:

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Tim Connolly - Matt Frattin
Joey Crabb - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Joe Colborne - David Steckel - Philippe Dupuis
 
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
 
James Reimer will start in goal, with Jonas Gustavsson the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 12.06.2011 / 1:49 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Potential lineups for Maple Leafs, Devils

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs did not skate this morning, so it is not certain what their lineup will look like, but it's unlikely they'll change much from Monday's game against the New York Rangers.

One notable absence likely will be forward Mikhail Grabovski, whose girlfriend went into labor yesterday.

MAPLE LEAFS
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Tim Connolly - Matt Frattin
Joey Crabb - Joe Colborne - Nikolai Kulemin
Jay Rosehill - David Steckel - Philippe Dupuis

Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
 
James Reimer will start in goal, with Jonas Gustavsson the backup.

DEVILS
Ilya Kovalchuk - Zack Parise - Adam Henrique
Mattias Tedenby - Patrik Elias - Petr Sykora
Dainius Zubrus - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Eric Boulton - Tim Sestito - Nick Palmieri

Andy Greene - Anton Volchenkov
Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur will start in goal, with Johan Hedberg the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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POSTED ON Monday, 10.17.2011 / 2:59 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineup for Maple Leafs

Here is the projected lineup for the Toronto Maple Leafs for tonight's game against the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre:

MAPLE LEAFS
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Matt Frattin - Matthew Lombardi - Colby Armstrong
David Steckel - Philippe Dupuis - Mike Brown
 
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
John-Michael Liles - Luke Schenn
Cody Franson - Mike Komisarek
 
James Reimer is expected to start in goal with Jonas Gustavsson serving as the backup.
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It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery