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Posted On Tuesday, 10.28.2014 / 12:37 PM

By Mike Brophy - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Sabres at Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- Randy Carlyle has shuffled the deck.

Unhappy with what he has seen from his team of late, the Toronto Maple Leafs coach has reunited left wing Joffrey Lupul with right wing Phil Kessel and they will skate with Nazem Kadri in the middle Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres.

Kessel and Lupul played together under former Toronto coach Ron Wilson.

Tyler Bozak, who has been the Maple Leafs' No. 1 center the past few seasons, will have James van Riemsdyk and David Clarkson on his wings on the second line.

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Posted On Saturday, 10.25.2014 / 12:56 PM

By Mike Brophy - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Bruins at Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- The Boston Bruins are down a man -- a big man -- but that will not alter the way they play when they face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' 6-foot-9, 255-pound defenseman and captain, is out indefinitely with an injured knee, and along with the departures of Jarome IginlaShawn Thornton and Johnny Boychuk, should in theory make them an easier team to play against.

Not so, said Bruins coach Claude Julien.

"Hitting is one thing, and it depends how hard you want to hit," Julien said. "You've just got to be physical. Sometimes being physical can be about eliminating a player from the puck and that's what we have to adapt to. We can continue to be a physical team or hard team to play against by eliminating or separating players from the puck."

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Posted On Friday, 10.17.2014 / 1:00 PM

By Mike Brophy - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Red Wings at Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- Two games as a healthy scratch is two games too many for Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner.

Gardiner did not play to a standard that pleased himself or coach Randy Carlyle and was a healthy scratch the previous two games. Gardiner said he was not surprised at the turn of events and did a little soul-searching during his time off.

Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, Gardiner will be back in the lineup, playing alongside his usual partner, Morgan Rielly.

With Gardiner in, veteran Stephane Robidas will be a healthy scratch.

"I don't think anyone is ever happy when they sit out," Gardiner said. "It's not ideal, but when the team is playing well that's just how it goes sometimes. I'm just excited to get back in the lineup."

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Posted On Tuesday, 10.14.2014 / 12:50 PM

By Mike Brophy - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Avalanche at Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- James Reimer will take whatever he can get.

Often referred to as the Toronto Maple Leafs' 1B goaltender to Jonathan Bernier's 1A, Reimer got his first start of the season Sunday against the New York Rangers, and even though he left the game at 13:17 of the third period after being clipped in the head by Dominic Moore of the Rangers, he will start Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche.

"It'll be good to get back in there; I'm excited to get another start and hopefully get another win," Reimer said. "I have a chance to go in there and try to win a game. We're starting our [Stanley Cup] Playoff push, so two points are up for grabs and hopefully I can do the job to get them."

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle showed no hesitation in putting Reimer back in goal, feeling Reimer supplied the Maple Leafs with the opportunity to win in New York. Starting against Colorado is his reward.

"We have talked about needing quality performances from everybody, and when you look at goaltending in the NHL it's a pretty big starting point for teams to have any kind of success," Carlyle said. "If you don't get NHL-quality goaltending your chances of success really drop in a hurry and that's what [Reimer] was able to provide for us."

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Posted On Saturday, 10.11.2014 / 12:45 PM

By Mike Brophy - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Penguins at Maple Leafs

TORONTO -- Nazem Kadri will be doing double duty Saturday night.

Not only will the Toronto Maple Leafs second-line center be trying to add to the goal he scored in the season-opening 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, he'll also be trying to throw superstar Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins off his game.

As skilled an offensive player as Kadri is, he is also an agitator who likes to get under the skin of his opponents. Last season, after Kadri rubbed him the wrong way, Crosby commented to Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf, "Kadri is a (bleeping) joke!" The conversation was captured on HBO's documentary "24/7."

Kadri said he took Crosby's words as a compliment and admitted it brings him pleasure to upset members of the opposition.

"I'm going to play my style, which is controlling the puck and try to challenge (Crosby) physically," Kadri said. "He's a little bit bigger than me, but that really doesn't matter. I'll get in his face a little bit and take away his time and space."

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Posted On Wednesday, 10.08.2014 / 1:57 PM

By Mike Brophy - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

Maple Leafs' Kozun to debut against Canadiens

TORONTO -- The moment Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Brandon Kozun has been waiting for all his life finally has arrived. Kozun will make his NHL debut when the Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens on the opening night of the 2014-15 season.

Talk about being on the big stage.

"It's exciting," Kozun said. "I feel like the nerves are starting to come a little bit, but I'm going to try to relax as best I can and play the way I do every game."

The undersized rookie was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the sixth round (No. 179) of the 2009 NHL Draft and has been working diligently to make it to the League. At 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, size was an issue but courage and determination helped make up for his lack of stature. On a team that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and entering this season with a stated goal of possessing the puck more, Kozun is expected to provide a spark.

"I am going to use my speed to try to bring energy," Kozun said.

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Posted On Sunday, 05.12.2013 / 12:45 PM

By Mike Brophy - Correspondent / - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Bruins, Leafs finding it hard to maintain momentum

TORONTO -- Momentum can be a great thing for a hockey team this time of year. That is, if you get it and can maintain it.

Last season the Los Angeles Kings barely made the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but got on a roll in the postseason and rode a wave all the way to their first championship.

Thus far in the first-round Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, neither team has been able to carry momentum from one game into the next. The Bruins won the series opener, but then lost Game 2 at home. The Maple Leafs, in their first playoff appearance in nine years, received huge support from their adoring fans, but were unable to translate that into victory at home, dropping both Games 3 and 4.

Then, with the possibility of concluding the series in five games, the Bruins lost a second straight home game and here we are with Game 6 in Toronto on Sunday night (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

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Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 2:13 PM

By Mike Brophy - Correspondent / - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Maple Leafs staying on the road at home

TORONTO -- Is it really Home, Sweet Home?

Well, so far the Toronto Maple Leafs have played two home games in the playoffs -- their first two since 2004 -- and have yet to win. Conversely, the Maple Leafs are 2-1 on the road in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.

So the Maple Leafs are treating Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS) like a road game.

"We have offered our players the opportunity to stay in the hotel the night before and the afternoon of games," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We think that's something that has been a choice, but as for Sunday afternoon, it will not be an option. We will check into a hotel."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 2:09 PM

By Mike Brophy - Correspondent / - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

Reimer's heroics big part of Maple Leafs' win

TORONTO -- Two nights earlier, at the most critical time in the game, Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer let a shot slip past him that looked quite stoppable.

It was in overtime and it meant his team lost the game and fell into a 3-1 series deficit against the Boston Bruins in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. Much of the focus after the game was on Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, who had pinched on the play, allowing the Bruins to break away on an odd-man rush. Had Reimer made the save, all would have been well and Phaneuf's indiscretion would have been forgotten.

Fast forward to Friday, and again at a critical time -- this time in a scoreless game -- Reimer produced a game-saving stop, robbing Boston's Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins center cut in front of the net, causing Reimer to do the splits. With his leg stretched to the maximum, Reimer stopped the puck with the toe of his skate.

For Reimer, the spectacular save was all in a day's work.

"Honestly, it's one of those saves that you don't plan," Reimer said. "It just kind of happens. Obviously it's probably mostly just luck. He had a little bit of room on the side, but it went off my toe. It's just a lucky save and hopefully there's a few more of those left."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.11.2013 / 2:04 PM

By Mike Brophy - Correspondent / - Bruins-Maple Leafs series blog

MacArthur making the most of his opportunities

TORONTO -- Veteran Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Clarke MacArthur is learning about the highs and lows of participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Having never been in the playoffs before in his seven-season career, MacArthur suffered the indignity of being a healthy scratch in Games 2 and 3 of Toronto's best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins, but now has goals in back-to-back games as the Maple Leafs won 2-1 Friday in Boston to remain alive.

Game 6 is Sunday in Toronto (7:30 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS).

"I just wanted to stay ready in practice," MacArthur said. "You never know when you're going to get the chance to play again. It was nice to get back in and help the team."

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Quote of the Day

It's a date that's been circled on my calendar, so it's kind of nice to have it here and get it over with (Thursday). This is a little bit of the closing of the book on the move. That's kind of how I'm looking at it.

— Stars forward Jason Spezza on returning to Ottawa for the first time to face the Senators