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At the Rink blog

Key centers could be missing for Leafs, Habs

Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 2:25 PM

By Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com / At the Rink blog

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At the Rink blog
Key centers could be missing for Leafs, Habs
The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs will both have a significant hole in their respective lineups in their Original Six showdown tonight at the Bell Centre.

For the Canadiens, coach Jacques Martin announced that center Scott Gomez will be gone for at least a week with an upper-body injury.

Gomez left a 3-1 loss Thursday night in Pittsburgh in the first period, attempted to come back on the ice and quickly left again. He had an MRI on Friday, but Martin said it is unclear exactly how long he will be missing.

For the Maple Leafs, coach Ron Wilson said center Tyler Bozak is a game-time decision after he stopped a Johnny Boychuk slap shot with his foot in a 6-2 loss Thursday night to the Bruins in Boston. Bozak came out for the morning skate but left quickly, clearly limping on his way to the dressing room.

Wilson said Clarke MacArthur is also a game-time decision with an undisclosed injury, but he took part in the entire skate this morning and looks as though he should be able to play after missing the game in Boston.

If Bozak can't go, local boy Matthew Lombardi will take his spot on a line between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, the two most productive forwards in Leafs lineup.

"We'll see what happens with the lineup tonight, there are still some decisions to be made," Lombardi said. "I don't want to start talking about it and then it doesn't happen. But I'll be ready to play wherever. We all have to be ready after a tough game last game."

The Canadiens loss of Gomez provides an opportunity for young centers David Desharnais and Lars Eller to take on a more significant role. That's especially true of Eller, a natural center who has always been more comfortable in the middle but who has been stuck on a wing since
his return from shoulder surgery Oct. 13.

"It's sad to see (Gomez) is out, we'll miss him," Eller said. "But it's a big opportunity for me."

Eller will center a line with Andrei Kostitsyn and Travis Moen while Desharnais will play between Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole.

Of course, that is subject to change considering Martin used around 25 different line combinations in Pittsburgh as he looks for a way to solve his team's offensive woes.
The Canadiens have scored just 13 goals in six games, with five of those goals coming in one shot in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

The line juggling is a reflection of that lack of offense, but the Canadiens players insist it doesn't bother them even though it would obviously be preferable to give combinations some time to develop chemistry.

"Last game was unique that way, I'll admit it was different," said Michael Cammalleri, who returned to action in Pittsburgh after missing three games with a deep cut on his leg. "But Jacques had a lot of things to juggle, he didn't know how my knee would react and then we lost (Gomez). As a player, the big focus is to not focus on that because I can't control that. I think as an older player I've learned to do that, but it may be a little harder for a younger guy."

Lombardi is not the only member of the Maple Leafs who will be making a homecoming tonight as former Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek will be back in the lineup for Toronto after being a healthy scratch against Boston. He will take the spot of Cody Franson, who was a
minus-3 against the Bruins.

"It's big on a couple of levels for him," said fellow defenseman Luke Schenn. "First of all he used to play here, and he always gets a mixed reaction whenever he comes here. But also, well, all the defensemen want to play well, but I think he really wants to make an imprint on our lineup."

Wilson said he wanted Komisarek to gain some perspective by watching a game from the press box and expects him to come in and play a simple game. But he was clear that lineup decisions on his crowded blue line will be performance-based.

"This is a meritocracy," he said. "If you're playing well, you play."
Quote of the Day

My focus is always just to play as well as I can and do my job, no matter where the faceoff is.

— New York Rangers forward Carl Hagelin on using his speed to his advantage
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