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Game Journal: Game 10 - Penguins vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

5:20 PM: Tyler Bozak met with the media ahead of tonight's game against the Penguins. Here's what he had to say...

What enabled the line to click and get 10 shots last night?

I get to play with a couple of really hard workers so they get in the corner and win a lot of those battles. Our D got a lot of those shots through and we were able to get some rebound chances. Unfortunately we weren't able to put one in -- we had one but it got called back -- but more of the same tonight. We've got to get to the net, get traffic and get a lot of shots.

What's it going to be like to play against Phil?
I think it'll be fun. I'm sure there will be a few laughs out there but also if I'm out there against him I have to be aware of where he is all the time, try and take away his time and space and limit his opportunities. Obviously he's going to be going pretty hard tonight and he's going to want to get some goals. We've got to take away his chances and not let him get too many shots.

Should fans cheer him for what he did here or boo him because he's a Penguin?
I think they'll cheer him. He did so many good things for us here and scored so many goals for us year in and year out. I expect a lot of cheers for him.

How competitive is Phil Kessel?
He's one of the most competitive guys I've ever met to be honest with you. It can be anything from ping pong to hockey to the smallest thing like what you want to watch on TV. He's pretty stubborn too. It'll be fun to play against him, he's going to be going hard and he's going to want it. We're going to have to be aware of him on the ice at all times.

What do you have to do to generate offence?
We've got to stick to the process, stick to what we're doing. I think we're getting lots of shots, getting lots of opportunities, we've just got to bear down a little harder and I think we'll get a couple of bounces here and there. When one of them goes in the goals will start piling up.

Do you draw on your experience with Phil to trash talk him and rattle him?
I don't think I'll be trash talking him too much. I'll try to focus on the game and not focus on that. Just play hard and try to get the win.

How big a factor is Phil in your development?
He was huge. He was a guy I played with from the second I came into the League until he left here. Obviously to play with such an elite player like him it just helps your skill level and obviously helped me get to where I am. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn't played with him in those first couple of years. He really helped me become the player I am.

How challenging will tonight be on the draw?

They've got two of the best centres in the world. Faceoff wise they work hard, their wingers work hard to get in there and help out. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of 50/50 pucks and there's going to be a lot of winger battles to win those draws for us.

Will Phil be extra fired up for tonight?

He's pretty calm going into all games, he likes to play a little loose. I think he'll be a little more fired up for this one than some other ones but he'll be the same old Phil.

5:00 PM: Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner will play his second game since returning from injury tonight. Here's what he had to say...

How did 18 minutes feel last night heading into back-to-back nights?
Back-to-backs are never easy, especially when you're playing a team like Pittsburgh. A lot of high end skill and obviously Phil is coming back tonight and I think that'll be fun for him, fun for us to play against him and I hope the crowd gives him a warm welcoming.

How do you think Phil will be welcomed?
I don't know. You never know. He had a lot of good years here for us and hopefully they cheer for him but I guess you never know... He had a pretty good career here and I'm sure he'll continue to do it there. If I was in the stands I'd definitely be cheering.

On being on the ice against Kessel in Pittsburgh:
Just the way he is and some of the jokes he used to say and I could tell what he was thinking on the ice sometimes too. It's always fun playing old teammates.

How quick is Kessel?
That's the biggest thing with Phil. Being on his team whenever he had space, you're all excited and there was always going to be a chance on the opposing net. Playing against him is a little tougher. You never want to give him space and when he does have space you're gripping your stick a little tighter.

How does this team generate offence going forward?
We're going to have to figure that out. Everyone has to step up, starting from our defence -- obviously Morgan has been stepping up a bit -- we just need everyone to contribute.

Are clean breakouts and play around the net extra important against Pittsburgh?
Yeah, just limiting space. Obviously with Phil, they're high end guys. Don't let them get to the net.

On the strength of Crosby and Malkin:
Both of those guys are some of the strongest guys in the League. We played Rick Nash last night and he's another guy like that. Those guys are hard to play against. We've got Morgan and Hunwick usually playing against Crosby's line and they did a great job last game. Hopefully they can do it again.     

3:00 PM: Tonight's officials are Tim Peel and TJ Luxmore while Scott Driscoll and Bryan Pancich will handle the linesman duties. You can tune into the game on Hockey Night in Canada, TSN 1050 and by following the Leafs on Twitter.

Get set for the game with Paul Hendrick and Bob McGill who tee it up from Air Canada Centre.

2:30 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Leafs and Penguins.

Toronto Maple Leafs
21 van Riemsdyk - 43 Kadri - 47 Komarov
26 Winnik - 42 Bozak - 19 Lupul
23 Matthias - 24 Holland - 15 Parenteau
40 Grabner - 56 Froese - 25 Clune

51 Gardiner - 3 Phaneuf
2 Hunwick - 44 Rielly
52 Marincin - 46 Polak

45 Bernier
34 Reimer

Pittsburgh Penguins
9 Dupuis - 87 Crosby - 72 Hornqvist
57 Perron - 71 Malkin - 81 Kessel
14 Kunitz - 13 Bonino - 19 Bennett
61 Plotnikov - 7 Cullen - 16 Fehr

28 Cole - 58 Letang
3 Maatta - 4 Scuderi
12 Lovejoy - 8 Dumoulin

29 Fleury
37 Zatkoff

1:30 PM: Leafs head coach Mike Babcock met with the media on Saturday morning at Air Canada Centre. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

On any changes from last night's lineup:
No... The guys are just wheeling in, we gave them the morning off. Obviously therapy wise and all that we'll have players extra ready to go but we'll see what happens. At this time I didn't expect anything after last night's game.

Is Dion's offence a surprise to you?
No, I think Dion has played well for us. He's been all the things I heard about Dion from the outside. Dion has been a good leader, he's a constant every day with his work ethic, he's energy for the team, he does it right every day, he's getting way better defensively in my opinion. He and Gards had some turnovers last night -- it was Gards' first game back -- but I think they've been good together when they've played. I think him and Hunwick have been good together when they've played. To me, all you've got to do is look at the stats there and go through it. Plus/minus wise he got caught on for a 6-on-5 goal against that gave him a minus there but to me he has been excellent, probably our most steady guy.

Is Phaneuf keeping his shot down more?
I just think it's way easier when it's six inches off the ice and someone can tip it in front. When there's no one in front you're more likely to always go high because you think you've got to score with no one there. When there's someone in front you're more likely to get a tip so you tend to treat the guy with a little more respect so it's a little easier shot to deflect.

What led to not splitting the goaltenders automatically on a back-to-back?
There's lots of things you do because what you did didn't work. I wear a three piece suit for Original Six games but when you lose three in a row, guess what I didn't wear last night. It's the definition of insanity. I don't know the right answer.

What do you remember from the last game between these teams?

They had nine shots after a period and a half. I thought it was real tight. I think obviously right now if you look at what's going on is their big dogs have scored here of late. I think I read Fehr is back tonight so that'll give them a little more. Obviously there is a lot of talent on their team so, to me, when you have that much talent, even if it doesn't get going right away it's going to get going over time. When Kunitz plays on your third line you must be a good hockey club. Obviously I've been coaching against Pittsburgh for a long time. Elite skill and good competitors so they've got a good team.

What's the message after not getting any power plays last night?
Well we thought it was a pretty even game. I think if you're us and you want to feel sorry for yourself, you could say jeez, we didn't get any power plays. The other way to look at it is if we competed harder in one on one battles and on the puck and we're on it more and you're relentless and you go to the net and make them haul you down, there are going to be penalties. The only penalty in the game I didn't like, I didn't like the penalty on Moore because to me when you just flick your head after when the guy touches your on the shoulder, they talk about diving -- that should be a suspension in my mind, that kind of stuff, I can't stand that. That comes around to get you later once you do that to the referee. They remember.

Are you concerned that with review you're going to have stuff called for goalie interference that never would have been before?

That's a really good thought by you. To me if you're a goalie that plays four inches outside the paint and guys are in the paint and he's pushing you back -- it's one thing if you're a goalie that plays on the goal line anyway, that's a tougher call. If I'm a goalie and any of those goals go in this year, what I do is put my hands in the air right after and I make a big deal about it and they go to it right after and get involved in the game right away. To me, I like hockey goals. We're not scoring a lot anyways so you like them when they go in. But, the bottom line is I think it's real important that we get it right in the League. I think it's hard. Let's not take away goals that are good goals, though. Lupul's toe bumps Lunqvist's toe, so if that threw him off then it's no goal, if it didn't it's a goal. I don't know the answer.

Do you have to stress anything to your players with Kessel coming back?
Yeah I think we played against him already. Obviously they know him good, he's a real good player and he's playing with a dynamic player in Malkin, he's a dangerous guy, we don't want to give him a whole lot of space. I think he got some of that over. Obviously he was a very important Leaf for a long period of time and he has moved on and we wish him luck in Pittsburgh every night except when he plays us. We're just going to play as hard as we can. Our focus is on finding a way to win a game.

Do you try to keep somebody on Kessel to disrupt him?
I think you try to keep someone on all good players all the time. If you look at last night's game for us, last night's game is a low event game. What I mean by that is there's not a whole lot of chances either way but in the end, we gave up some good chances and we've got to continue to limit the good chances. Same with this team tonight. They don't have to do a whole bunch. They can be hanging around, hanging around, all you've got to do is give them some open ice a couple of times and they're going to bury it. We're not finishing quite as good so we need more shots on net.

How has Crosby's game evolved over the years?
I don't know, you should ask Mike Johnston not me. Sid's a great guy and an elite competitor. I like coaching him every time I get a chance.

1:00 PM: The Leafs will wrap up the second leg of a back-to-back on Saturday night when they play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Air Canada Centre.

Toronto took a 3-1 road loss in New York on Friday night. Despite a quality 23 save performance from Jonathan Bernier that gave the Leafs a chance to win, they couldn't solve Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at the other end of the rink. Joffrey Lupul had the lone Leaf goal in the loss. Bernier will return to the crease tonight against Pittsburgh.

The Penguins enter Saturday night on a three game win streak, most recently defeating the Buffalo Sabres by a 4-3 score. Jeff Zatkoff made 50 stops for the Penguins who got goals from four different players -- Pascal Dupuis, Patric Hornqvist, Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin -- in the win. Tonight also marks the Toronto return of former Leafs forward Phil Kessel who was traded to Pittsburgh on July 1, 2015. Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start in goal for the Penguins.

Stay tuned for projected lineups, comments from Coach Babcock and the Leafs and more.

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