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Game Journal: Game 15 - Maple Leafs vs. Stars

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

5:00 PM: Tonight's officials are Mike Leggo and Jean Hebert, while Don Henderson and Shane Heyer will handle the linesman duties. Fans who want to follow the game can tune into Sportsnet, Sportsnet 590 The FAN and by following the Leafs on Twitter.

Get set for tonight's game with Paul Hendrick, Joe Bowen and the Maple Leafs Game Preview.

4:45 PM:
Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Stars.

Toronto Maple Leafs
21 van Riemsdyk - 43 Kadri - 47 Komarov
23 Matthias - 42 Bozak - 15 Parenteau
40 Grabner - 16 Spaling - 19 Lupul
24 Holland - 56 Froese - 28 Boyes

51 Gardiner - 3 Phaneuf
2 Hunwick - 44 Rielly
36 Harrington - 46 Polak

34 Reimer
30 Bibeau

Dallas Stars
14 Benn - 91 Seguin - 10 Sharp
13 Janmark - 20 Eakin - 90 Spezza
83 Hemsky - 38 Fiddler - 22 Sceviour
21 Roussel - 12 Faksa - 43 Nichushkin

33 Goligoski - 3 Klingberg
47 Oduya - 4 Demers
2 Jokipakka - 24 Benn

31 Niemi
32 Lehtonen

4:30 PM: Leafs TV also caught up with Michael Grabner and Peter Holland. Take a look...

4:15 PM: Here's what Morgan Rielly had to say following Tuesday's morning skate...

Leafs TV

Do you feel like there's more of a comfort level facing Jamie Benn and the Stars tonight after last week?
I wouldn't say that. I think if anything I kind of know what to expect and that can make it tougher sometimes because that's what makes him so good. Again, we're looking forward to the challenge. We've just got to make life hard on them and play them tough.

Chris Pronger says you don't necessarily have to be physical to play defence, you just have to get in the way. Do you approach things like that?

Well, I've been compared to Pronger a lot -- I'm joking. No -- he's one of the best defencemen to ever play and obviously his strength was one of his huge assets. He used it to his advantage a lot. I think he was really good at using his body, getting in the way like you said. That's what made him have the Hall of Fame career he did... The longer you play the more you realize you just have to use your body. It's not about being huge and strong, it's just about about putting your body in the way and making guys have to go around you as opposed to just having a lane. Whether you're big or small you're able to do that, there's no question about it. You just have to commit yourself to doing it. Just block the path is a term we use sometimes. I think it's important.

How important was that stint with the Marlies at 18 to get you ready for right now?
I think it was important. I had a chance to play 20 games that year and I think that helped me a lot. I'm grateful to have had that opportunity and I think it helped me a lot.

4:00 PM: Tyler Bozak spoke to the media following today's morning skate. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

How were your days in the BCHL playing with the Benn brothers?
It was fun. We had a great group of guys, we had a pretty good team. It was always fun, I got to play with Jamie on the same line and Jordie was one of our best defencemen so it was definitely a good time and we still talk about those days sometimes every now and again... We lost in the conference finals, we thought we should have won but we fell short. It was a fun year and a lot of good memories from then.

Are you surprised Jamie Benn was only a fifth rounder and how quickly he has progressed?
It's incredible. He was a great player back then. He probably got drafted a little later because he played Junior B and wasn't playing Major Junior yet. We all knew the skillset he had and the shot he had but the way he has progressed, to be one of the best players in the world so quickly is really impressive. It's fun to watch him play and see what he can do out there. He's unbelievable.

Is there a more concerted effort as a team to have the wingers pitch in to win draws?

I think so, I think we're doing a little bit better job of holding up others teams this year and wingers getting in there to win the draws. That's huge. You don't win many draws clean, a lot of them are 50/50 battles and our wingers have been helping our centres a ton winning those back.

3:15 PM: Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock addressed the media in Dallas today. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

What do you expect of your team tonight?
We played them once and, I thought, outchanced them through two and they outchanced us 7-1 in the third when we got on our heels. In watching all the pre-scouts of the last four games, Dallas has really generated a ton off O-zone faceoffs. They start winning draws and they get heavy in the offensive zone, they've got talented, talented people obviously. Number three [John Klingberg] on the back end is a real dynamic player and we all know the other guys so I think it's important we do a good job in the faceoff circle, we execute in the D-zone and spend some time in the offensive zone here tonight to have success. It's a big game for us and we're excited to play.

What role have the wingers played in the success of your centremen on the draw?
Yeah, 51 [per cent] is not quite good enough but, in saying that, it's important. All those 50/50 battles, I always say to guys, buy your wingers a few steaks and then bribe them to win some of those 50/50s and your percentage goes way up. We want to have the puck and to me it's the easiest one-on-one battle in the game. If you're mentally focused you have a chance to win that.

What's the biggest challenge for a young defenceman like Rielly when goes up against an elite talent like Jamie Benn?
I think Benn got to the net a ton against us last game, he [Rielly] is going to have to work real hard to keep him away from the net. The thing about Benn is you crosscheck him, you try to keep him away and sometimes he punches you in the head so you've got to respond to that a little bit. That's a challenge for him. [Rielly] is getting better every game, he makes more plays without the puck than he did for sure in the early going, he's breaking up way more plays and he has been on for less chances against and that's critical for us. We're going to continue with that focus. Obviously playing with Hunwick who seems to stand in the right spots helps him but they're doing a good job.

Does Winnik stay out tonight?

Yeah, I never even thought about him. If you couldn't practice, you can't play.

What do you like about Reimer's game that you've seen?
I think he is playing more confident. The other night in Washington he didn't let any of those squeakers -- Ovechkin beat him on one of those ones and it went out the side that he'd like to have back. Reims has played well for us, he has given up a few squeakers he'd like to have back. In saying that, he's battled and as he's battled and got on this run he looks more comfortable, the puck is sticking to him better and it's not coming off him all the time. That's a comfort thing so good for him. I think when you get an opportunity to start and you get a start every night, your job as a goalie is to keep the other guy on the bench. As long as you play well that's what you do.

Is there a point of emphasis with Peter Holland tonight?
To me it's straightforward, if you compete hard enough you get to be in the lineup. If you do the right things, you get to be in the lineup. Sometimes as players you think, oh gee, this guy doesn't like me -- it has nothing to do with liking anybody. If you play good you get to play and if you don't play good you don't get to play.

Is Bibeau still backing up?


1:45 PM:
The Leafs took the ice for their morning skate today.

1:30 PM: The Toronto Maple Leafs return to game action on Tuesday night when they take on the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.

The Leafs enter Tuesday's game after picking up a pair of points over the weekend with an overtime loss on Friday night and a shootout loss on Saturday night. On Saturday the Leafs got goals from Daniel Winnik and James van Riemsdyk as well as 29 saves from James Reimer in the 3-2 shootout loss. Reimer will get the start in Dallas once again.

The Stars have won three games in a row since losing to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Nov. 2. Most recently, Dallas defeated the Detroit Red Wings by a 4-1 score. Dallas got goals from Patrick Sharp, Valeri Nichushkin and a pair of empty netters scored by Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin in the win. Kari Lehtonen stopped 21 shots in the win.

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

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