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Leafs need to improve penalty kill

Sunday, 01.01.2012 / 4:31 PM / NHL Insider

By Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

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Leafs need to improve penalty kill
Toronto will have to get sharper on special teams if it hopes to make a run in the season's second half.
WINNIPEG -- The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to have to iron out their penalty kill if they plan on making a second-half charge toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Leafs held the NHL's worst penalty kill entering Saturday night's clash with the Winnipeg Jets, and allowing two Winnipeg power goals sank the Leafs' kill rate to 72.3 percent for the season. Discipline is also an issue for Toronto. The Leafs went shorthanded six times against the Jets and their 148 power plays yielded this season place them 20th in the League.

"We're just not getting the job done right now," Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn said, "and we need to be better if we're going to have any chance of making [the playoffs]."

Toronto coach Ron Wilson let his displeasure with defenseman Schenn on Winnipeg's opening goal be known, as well as Jake Gardiner's role in the Jets' game-winning power-play strike.

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"We kicked two pucks in our own net," Wilson said. "Defensemen are supposed to box out. One went off Luke's knee when he should have gotten out of the way, not screening the goalie or trying to block that one."

"Jake essentially did the same thing," Wilson continued. "He was trying to box out and then he saw the puck coming. [His} reflex stuck his foot out there and deflected it through [goaltender James] Reimer's legs."

The Leafs have held meetings to discuss their penalty kill and emphasized it in practice, but Schenn admits that the struggles are wearing on the club.

"It's been the story all year," Schenn said. "The penalty kill is the reason why we have kind of dug ourselves into this hole right now. We've been working on it, but nothing is clicking right now. It's frustrating. Everybody in the room is frustrated with it.

But while Wilson leveled criticism at his defensemen, Reimer wanted nothing to do with that line of thinking.

"Being screened by your own teammates is something I don't want to talk about at all," Reimer stated. "I will never, ever critique a d-man or a forward for getting in my way."

"Other people can talk about it if they want," Reimer continued, "but when you have guys out there who are willing to risk injuries and you name it to get in front of [the puck] and block it for me, I'm never going to tell someone they're doing a bad job. I'll always congratulate a teammate for being willing to get in front of a puck."
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