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Babcock ahead of Saturday in Montreal

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs


Here's what Mike Babcock had to say after Leafs practice on Friday before the club departed for Montreal.

Will you use Froese in Montreal?

That's a real good question. He has been competitive when I've watched him. I didn't know who he was at camp and he got better and grew on me every day. He's smart and competitive and we're looking to be more competitive in the centre hole so I don't know. That's the beauty of having another day to think about it.

What do you like in your team when it comes to faceoffs?

I don't know what it [the faceoff percentage] was last year, I just know it's important. We don't want to chase the puck. Last game we weren't engaged off the start. We had a couple of guys go 1-for-5 and 1-for-6 in the first and that just can't happen. You're chasing the puck all game and you're wearing yourself out. We'd like to have it as much as we possibly can and there are a number of way to do that. Obviously faceoffs are one of them.

Is Grabner a guy you think that can still give you offence or has he changed?

I don't know the answer to that question. I think we can get way more offence as a team when we play right. The heavier we get, the more offence we're going to get. Guys that are used to playing a rush game and one and done, to me that's a fantasy world now. That's not happening now unless you play heavy in the offensive zone and you catch them from behind and go again. We've got some work to do there but we're talking about it, we're showing it, we're catching them doing it right when they do it and, over time, hopefully it'll be a habit.

How long have you been tracking faceoffs with the backup goalie on the bench and how does it help?

I don't know, I've been doing it forever. If I'm the goalie and I'm playing net and I'm winning the game, I want the coach to have the right people on the ice. The way you do that is when you're not playing you make sure the coach has the right people on the ice. For example, if I find out that our centres are 1-of-5 and 1-of-6 at the end of the first period and I find that out right after and we give up a faceoff goal at the end, I'm not that smart. I just try to get the information the best I can and as quick as I can. The other thing about it is I expect the goalie that's not playing to be dialed in and make sure I have the stats right. Lots of times the guys that are doing it in each rink are fans of the home team so I like to know what really happened and not what's on the sheet.

Who gets the start tomorrow?

Bernie.

How important are those faceoffs going to be against Montreal who don't give up much?

Obviously Montreal, they're playing real well. They've been a real fortunate team in that they're playing good, they got off to a good start, their goalie is playing good, they haven't had injuries so they play the same lineup every night. They kind of hit their rhythm early so it's going to be a good test for us. We're excited that they play tonight and we get to watch them and then we play them tomorrow. That'll be good. We look forward to our opportunity. It's always fun playing in Montreal, I love going to the city myself. It's spectacular and so are their fans and so is their uniform and their team. It'll be a good test... There's lots of good things about it. I like going back there. It's fun to go there. They care about hockey. It's not different than in Toronto, they care about hockey and it makes it fun.

Did you learn anything about Price from coaching him at the Olympics?

I know lots about him, I know PK real well too. The great thing about him is I know he's good. He's a big guy and he's square and he's soft and he knows how to play and he's ultra competitive and I look forward to having a chance at him tomorrow.

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