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Game Journal: Game 19 - Avalanche vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

3:45 PM: Tonight's officials are Mike Leggo and Gord Dwyer, while Pierre Racicot and Steve Barton will handle the linesman duties. Those looking to tune in can watch on TSN 4, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Get set for tonight's game with Danielle Emanuele and Bob McGill who check in with the Maple Leafs Game Preview.

3:30 PM:
Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Avalanche.

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

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

34 Reimer
45 Bernier

Colorado Avalanche
25 Grigorenko - 29 MacKinnon - 9 Duchene
14 Comeau - 34 Soderberg - 12 Iginla
55 McLeod - 62 Wagner - 27 Martinsen
45 Everberg - 10 Street - 8 Skille

32 Beauchemin - 6 Johnson
2 Holden - 4 Barrie
46 Gormley - 5 Guenin

20 Berra
31 Pickard

3:00 PM:
Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul spoke with the media on Tuesday. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

Do you see a benefit in being paired with more defensive players?
All of our offensive guys are kind of mixed up throughout the lineup probably so I don't know, I'm getting to play lots, I'm on the first power play and these guys are playing well. Winnik is a good player, Spaling, tonight it's going to be Froese, they're all certainly capable players. We're starting most of our shifts in the defensive zone so that's different for me but I'm having fun. I'm enjoying playing against -- we'll get to play Duchene or MacKinnon or one of these guys tonight. It's fun to play against these guys.

Has the thought process changed from when you first came in and teams stacked their offensive players together?
A little bit, certainly. I think it's also a situation where there's more capable players throughout the lineup. There used to be guys on the team that were strictly checkers or enforcers or guys like that, now you see a little more balance throughout the fourth lines. A guy like Winnik is a guy that can go up and down your lineup really. He can play with offensive players, he can play on the fourth line, he can do whatever you need to do. I think he's been valuable and Spaling too. He's played really well for us.

Do you think you're proving anything to the League or to yourself with how you've come out?
Not really, I think in the past I've had that mindset a little bit. Times when I've had bad injuries in my career or teams let me go because of stuff like that. I don't know, I think I'm a good player, when I'm healthy I produce and it's just a matter of staying healthy. I think I've played really consistent this year. I've played just about the same every game all year, it hasn't been many ups and downs. That's something I'd like to try and continue on throughout the year is not have any games where I'm like 'I didn't have it tonight' -- I'm just trying to be really consistent. I have full confidence in myself when I'm healthy. I can certainly be a guy that chips in with whatever, 25-30 goals.

Do you think it was more just reestablishing yourself after last year?
Yeah, we weren't very good last year, any of us. I know I wasn't very proud of the way I played the last couple of months of the season and I'm sure a lot of the guys in here would echo the same statement. Again, it was just like sometimes you need some time to clear your head and I feel good, I'm having fun. Obviously I'd like to have a couple more wins than we have but I'm just enjoying coming to the rink again. I don't know, I feel good about hockey.

What do you see from Reimer this year?
He's always worked hard at practice and I think that's a key. I don't know anything about goaltending. I'd say that's the key if you're the back up goalie, that's probably a key for you to be ready when you do get the chance. He has always worked real hard at practice and I would say -- obviously you see he's having success now in the games, anyone can see that. I think as far as something behind the scenes, he has always stayed positive and kept up a strong work ethic at practice, which has allowed him to come in and be successful right now.

How much has the blueline helped your offence with shots from the point turning into chances down low?
You just hope that if you're going to stand there you hope that guys can get the pucks through. Teams are really good at blocking shots now so it's not an easy job for the defenceman to get the puck to the net. Ideally if you're standing there, that's what you're hoping is the puck gets there and gives you a chance in front. I've been able to put some of those chances in when I got the opportunity.

2:30 PM: Leafs forward Tyler Bozak spoke to the media following the team's morning skate on Tuesday. Here's what he had to say...

On Reimer’s recently renewed success and confidence:
He’s a great guy to have in the room. He’s done great for us the whole time he’s been here. Stays confident and just does his thing and plays his game, so, he’s been doing great for us again this year, just like all of the past years, so I’m happy for him.

On the zone Reimer is in with the last 7 starts this season:
Yeah, I mean we’ve seen it before. You look at past years; he’s been a very good goaltender in this league. Obviously there were times where we weren’t playing good defence and we were letting him out to dry, and his numbers might not have been as good then. But, you know, he kept us in a ton of games, and he’s doing that again this year. He’s given us a chance to win every night, and we’re finally, you know, starting to score some goals, and figure out how to win, but he’s a huge part of that

2:10 PM: Leafs goaltender James Reimer will get the start against the Colorado Avalanche tonight. Here's what he had to say ahead of tonight's game.

Leafs TV

On what he expects from the Avalanche tonight:
Just a lot of good shooters. As far as I can remember, they’re a good team, they’re a quick team, they’re a rush team and so, they got a lot of skill players that can use their speed and shoot. So, it’s something that we’ve got to be diligent with and try to cut off as much as their speed as possible.

On playing well and then, backing up Bernier for a game, and its effects on your level of play/momentum:
No, I don’t think so. You know, it’s one of those things where I’ve been feeling good, and try to keep the good streak going. We’ve been playing really good as a team and you know, when the team’s playing that well, it’s the most important thing.

On taking back the starting goaltending job after a few seasons of losing that position:
Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if I ever look at it too much, really. It’s one of those things where for me, it’s game by game, I just want to go out there and give the boys a chance tonight. You know, whatever slot you’re in, whenever you get a chance, you want to play well. For me, it’s just nice to be able to get in there and play, and try to be the difference for the guys.

On Mike Babcock’s bluntness as a coach:
Yeah, you want honesty, you know, let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, or ‘no’ be ‘no’. Yeah, and he’s been great so far, and nothing but honest and respectful. That’s what you want from a coach as a player. You just kind of want to know where you stand, and what you have to do, so he’s been great.

What he enjoys the most about the game of hockey?
Just playing well as a team. I mean, I think that’s the beauty of team sports is you know when everyone’s going and everyone’s doing their job, you know, you just worry about your job, and good things happen. That the joy of it, I mean, obviously winning is the ultimate thing, and that makes it the most fun, but when everyone is doing their thing, it’s just fun to be a part of.

1:45 PM: Here's what Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say following Tuesday's morning skate.

Leafs TV

Mike, what did you know about James Reimer, what were your impressions of him when you got here, and has he surprised you at all with what he’s done?
No, not really, he’s an NHL goaltender, we gave him an opportunity, and, or not even given one, he’s taken [the opportunity]. And, he’s done something with it and he deserves full marks. Also, he spent the whole summer training and working, spent a lot of time trying to improve his game. And he seems to have confidence right now; our team has confidence when he’s in the net. He’s played some good games for us. Early on you gasped once a night with the puck bouncing off of him. He’s doing a good job for us. Now, he’s a lot softer, pucks are hitting and sticking to him.

On the importance of goals in this “era” of the NHL, and how important a player like Kadri, who can draw multiple penalties a night is to the Leafs’ goal scoring production:
Yeah, no obviously it’s important, you know, you got to make your powerplay better, that’s makes it better obviously. But, you know I thought Naz has played real well for us. He’s been good for us, but the bottom-line is, in the end he keeps working hard, he’ll find a way to score. I mean, all the guy’s got to do is look at Lupul and just draw that circle around the net from where you scored. You got to get to the paint if you want to score, so, guys don’t get there, they aren’t scoring.

On the skill and technique of drawing penalties:
You just skate. I mean you skate and work and have the puck. If you skate and work and have the puck and keep your feet going, those guys when get touched, their feet stop moving. So, if you ride the bike once someone touches you, and you keep your feet going, you’re going to draw penalties.

Did you have an idea of what we could expect from Lupul this season with the injuries last year?

I mean, I had Lupes at 18. I’ve known Lupes a long time. You know, so, I’ve known him a lot. Obviously, he’s gone through some ups and downs, and, battled back from a key injury, wants to be a player. You know the way I look at it; everybody basically has a fresh start. You as a coach have a fresh start, they have a fresh start, so if you do good things, good things happen. Staying healthy is part of it. Lupes trained real hard all summer, gave himself a chance to stay healthy,  worked hard at maintaining his body, and was active that way, and right now feels good about himself.

On using Lupul in more situations going forward:
You know, I mean the summer’s the summer there are always plans. There’s lots of things I was unaware of coming in, but I knew that coming in. There were some players that I was told were good, and weren’t as good as I thought, and guys that ended up playing better.

On roster changes for tonight:
Spals we used last game, he’s not in just cause he got bumped and couldn’t take faceoffs. And, so Spals checked out today, so Boyes draws in.

On whether Spaling’s injury is the same as before, or a reoccurrence?
No. He’s had three different issues.

11:45 AM: The Toronto Maple Leafs return to action on Tuesday night as they play host to the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs took a 4-3 loss in their last outing in New York against the Rangers. Peter Holland, Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf were the goal scorers for the Leafs. Jonathan Bernier made 26 stops in the loss. James Reimer will return to the net for the Leafs against Colorado.

The Avalanche come to Toronto following a big win in their last game on Saturday night, a 6-1 over the Canadiens in Montreal at the Bell Centre. Nathan MacKinnon scored a pair for the Avs, while Blake Comeau, Matt Duchene, Mikhail Grigorenko and John Mitchell added single tallies. Reto Berra stopped 39 shots to earn the win.

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

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