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Game Journal: Game 16 - Maple Leafs vs. Predators

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

5:15 PM: Tonight's officials will be Marc Joannette and Kyle Rehman while Brian Mach and Darren Gibbs will handle the linesman duties. Those looking to tune in can watch on TSN 4, listen on TSN 1050 and following the Leafs on Twitter.

Get set for tonight's game with Paul Hendrick who checks in from Nashville.

5:00 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Predators.

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

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

34 Reimer
45 Bernier

Nashville Predators
9 Forsberg - 12 Fisher - 18 Neal
33 Wilson - 63 Ribeiro - 15 Smith
67 Salomaki - 19 Jarnkrok - 11 Hodgson
57 Bourque - 84 Sissons - 52 Watson

59 Josi - 6 Weber
5 Jackman - 3 Jones
14 Ekholm - 4 Ellis

35 Rinne
39 Mazanec

4:45 PM: Leafs TV also caught up with Daniel Winnik, Scott Harrington and P-A Parenteau before tonight's game. Check out what they had to say.

4:30 PM: James Reimer gets the start in goal for the Leafs tonight. Here's what he had to say ahead of tonight's game...

Leafs TV

What is it like facing this team and the offence they bring from the blueline?
They've got a great D core -- probably one of the best and really good offensive. Obviously like you said, starting with [Shea Weber] he's got an absolute bomb from point and I think most of their D-men can shoot or move the puck. They're going to be a lot to handle but I like our game and I like the way we're playing right now. If we do what we can we should have some success.

What has it been like watching Polak and Harrington?

Defensive defencemen, they're a goalie's best friend. They've been great for us. Even in practice they're blocking shots and it's crazy, they're great teammates and especially as a goaltender to have them in front of you, it's always nice when they're out there because you know they're going to do whatever it takes to try and keep the puck out of the net. They've been awesome and it's been fun playing behind them.

Have you noticed the group playing with more confidence?
Yeah, I think so. Any time when you do the right things and then when -- it helps to get success but when you do the right things consistently and you see what happens when you do that, you start to gain confidence. It's nice but it's just because of what you said, you're earning it. You've got to keep earning it. You can't just revel in it because that does you no good. You've got to keep every day working hard because then you get more and more of it.

Is the group more loose?
Yeah I think that's just confidence. We're starting to do our own jobs and just having confidence that your teammate is going to do his job. When you do that there's less to worry about and you just go and do your thing.

What's it like to see Winnik out there?
It was good, I didn't know what was all going to take place when I saw him go down in Washington. It's really good to see him back and playing again. He's a big part of our team and it'll be real nice to have him back.

3:15 PM: Nick Spaling spoke to the media ahead of facing his former team. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

What does Daniel Winnik bring to complete your line tonight?
He's a great player, he's easy to play with. He's the kind of guy you know what to expect every night, he's working hard and he's getting the job done. You don't have to worry about anything with him. He makes it easy on me to play with.

What do you do as one of the PK forwards to negate good zone entries?

We want to create pressure and limit time and space. I think lately we've been getting great goaltending, which is the biggest part of the PK and some of the saves have been really saving us. Those are huge. We want to limit their time and space and try to give them the worst opportunity. They've got another guy so we want to make sure it's the worst chance possible for them.

What is the confidence like compared to a couple of weeks ago?
It's good to get wins. We started playing games, we thought we were playing well and just had a few lapses and weren't getting the wins. To be able get a couple of wins and -- obviously we've got a long way to go. We've got to build off those games too. It's just nice to have a couple of wins and to see a little bit of reward for the games going to the way we want them to.

Do the results ease the stress a bit?
Yeah, I think that's always good. We've got a long way to go. It's a long year left. We've got to keep building but it was nice in the last five to get a couple of wins and a couple of points. We played some great teams in that stretch so going forward it's not going to be any easier but we want to keep building off those games.

What was it like to play with Shea Weber who plays his 700th game tonight?
It's a lot of games. He's a competitive player. He's fun to play against, a guy like that. You know he's going to be bringing his A-game every night and he's the type of guy who doesn't make it easy on you out there. At the same time he's one of the fun guys to play against because you know you're in for a battle.

3:00 PM: Leafs head coach Mike Babcock spoke to the media following Thursday's morning skate in Nashville. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

What are your rules for defenders joining the offensive rush?
Well what my theory is and what I'm doing right now are totally different things. When we learn how to play I want my left D to be like my left winger and my right D to be like my right winger. But we're going to learn to play first and then we're going to cut them loose. We have a couple of guys on the back end that can really do that. We tell them to keep it in the barn is what we say so don't get running all over the rink because we want to play without it first and then we'll go. The team we're playing tonight -- this is my theory. When the D can skate and move the puck, your forwards look twice as fast as they really are and they score better because you never play defence. I don't know why you'd want to play defence, rim it up the boards and block shots when you can just put it on someone's tape and play on offence, it's way more fun. So when you're drafting and scouting, my two cents is you draft centres and D-men. You've got to find an odd goalie but I don't even know how you do that. That's what I'd do, I'd get D.

Is containing their D a key to keeping them out of the transition?
For sure, as much time as you can spend in the offensive zone, as much time as you can have them turn around and not looking up ice. Those are all priorities when you're playing a team like this and then playing defence fast in your own zone, because they can get roaming around, it can be ugly. They've got a good team and they play the game fast. Their back end is in the top five for sure and maybe the best, I don't know, in the National Hockey League. They give you trouble.

When a team is growing in confidence where do you see that the most?
I just think everywhere. Just in general you feel better about yourself. I think you play the game because you love the game, you have passion for the game, but winning is a lot more fun than losing. I don't know if you've heard that, but it is. So, just being confident enough that you can find a way to win if you do what you're supposed to do -- it doesn't guarantee it but it gives you a chance. We're trying to build the confidence of our group and we think that's through work ethic and structure and how to play right. In the end you get better results.

What are your impressions of Shea Weber through 700 games of his career?
Holy mackerel. He's a great, great man. The things you do on the ice are special and all that and that's what people are going to remember you for. The guys you've been around or coached, you remember what kind of person they are and how they make the people around them better. I got to know [Weber]'s family in the 2010 Olympics a little bit and they're pretty special parents. It's not by accident he's the kind of man and kind of leader he is. He's man-mountain out there with a super skillset. He has been great for the franchise. Was he a second round pick? A heck of a pick.

1:30 PM: The Toronto Maple Leafs wrap up a three-game road swing tonight when they take on the Predators in Nashville at 8 PM.

The Leafs are coming into tonight's game having won their last contest, a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Dallas Stars. Peter Holland, P-A Parenteau and Jake Gardiner scored for the Maple Leafs, while James Reimer was stellar in goal, recording 36 saves in the victory. Reimer will get the start again tonight in Nashville. The Leafs are 2-1-2 in their last five games.

The Predators are, once again, one of the top teams in the Western Conference with a 9-3-2 record through their first 14 games. In their last game, Nashville defeated the Ottawa Senators by a 7-5 score in a wide open game. The Predators had goals from seven different players -- Colton Sissons, Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Austin Watson, Matthias Ekholm, Barret Jackman and Gabriel Bourque -- while Pekka Rinne stopped 21 shots to earn the victory. Rinne will get the start again tonight for Nashville.

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

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