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At the Rink blog

Liles back in for Leafs after long spell as scratch

Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 2:47 PM

By Neil Acharya - NHL.com Correspondent / 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

TORONTO -- Looking to add a spark to the defense corps, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle will dress offensive-minded John-Michael Liles for the first time since Feb. 16.

Liles, who has been a healthy scratch for the previous 12 games, said he has watched video and heeded advice from Carlyle on what he needs to improve.

"It's a learning process regardless of if you are playing or not playing," Liles said. "By not playing, I was able to maybe scrutinize the film a little bit more than normal. It's just a matter of always trying to reevaluate and always trying to improve."

Heading into his first game in nearly a month and facing one of the best teams in the League, Liles isn't expected to deviate from his normal playing style.

"You try and keep things simple for the most part, but if [an] opportunity presents itself to join the play or to add some offense to our attack, I don't think I'll hesitate," said Liles, who has one goal and five assists in 15 games this season. "First and foremost it's playing defense and making sure we limit opportunities for Pittsburgh."

The Maple Leafs blueliners will have their work cut out for them -- the team has allowed 13 goals in the previous three games and face a Penguins squad that is the highest-scoring team in the League, averaging 3.63 goals per game.

"We've given up too many goals." Carlyle said. "I think the last time Pittsburgh was in here it was a 4-4 tie [before the shootout]. You score four goals, you should win."

Joffrey Lupul, who was on the ice Thursday morning but was ruled out by Carlyle, is edging closer to a return after breaking his forearm nearly two months ago.

The Penguins are rolling with six wins in a row and are coming off a comeback victory against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday in which they rallied from a 2-0 third-period deficit for a 3-2 win.

Coach Dan Bylsma had no update on injured star Evgeni Malkin, who is expected to miss up to two weeks with an upper-body injury. Malkin already has been out for nearly a week after being hit into the boards by Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk on March 9.

Defenseman Simon Despres should enter the lineup for the Penguins after being scratched against the Bruins. He skated alongside Kris Letang at the morning skate. Bylsma confirmed Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal.

Here are the projected lineups for the Penguins and Maple Leafs:

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Beau Bennett - Dustin Jeffrey - James Neal

Matt Cooke - Brandon Sutter - Tyler Kennedy

Tanner Glass - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Paul Martin - Brooks Orpik

Simon Despres - Kris Letang

Matt Niskanen - Deryk Engelland

Marc-Andre Fleury

Tomas Vokoun

Scratched: Mark Eaton, Robert Bortuzzo

Injured: Evgeni Malkin

MAPLE LEAFS

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Matt Frattin - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin

Clarke MacArthur - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov

Colton Orr - Jay McClement - Frazer McLaren

Dion Phaneuf - Korbinian Holzer

Carl Gunnarsson John-Michael Liles

Mark Fraser - Cody Franson

Ben Scrivens

James Reimer

Scratched: David Steckel, Mike Komisarek, Michael Kostka

Injured: Joffrey Lupul (arm)

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