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Game Journal: Game 20 - Maple Leafs vs. Hurricanes

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

4:45 PM: Tonight's officials will be Chris Lee and Greg Kimmerly while David Brisebois and Brian Mach will handle the linesman duties. Those looking to tune in can watch on Sportsnet, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Joe Bowen check in from Raleigh to get you set for tonight's game. Take a look...

4:30 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

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

Carolina Hurricanes
25 Terry - 12 Staal - 32 Versteeg
42 Nordstrom - 11 Staal - 20 Nash
53 Skinner - 49 Rask - 16 Lindholm
14 Gerbe - 18 McClement - 24 Malone

74 Slavin - 27 Faulk
65 Hainsey - 54 Pesce
5 Hanifin - 26 Liles

30 Ward
31 Lack

4:15 PM:
Shawn Matthias spoke to the media following Friday's morning skate. Here's what he had to say...

How important was that assist last week on Tyler Bozak’s goal to boost your confidence?
Well I think our line is playing better, I think the whole team is. We’re competing well¬: we’ve got structure in our game. But our line, we’ve been good; I think we can keep getting better. We’re having fun playing with eachother, and we want to keep it going.

How different is your current role playing with P-A Parenteau and Tyler Bozak, than last season in Vancouver?
Yeah, like Babs talks to me, he wants me to go get them the puck, and be hard on the forecheck, and get it back to guys like P.A. and Bozie. They’ve got a lot of skill, they both like to score too. I mean, if our line is being successful and scoring goals, I’m not worried about any individual stuff like that. I just want to help the team, and I think our line has been doing a good job at that.

As his linemate, what stands out to you about Tyler Bozak’s game?
He’s always in good position, he works hard, he play the game hard, he cares. He just makes his linemates better because he’s always in the right position. Like, I’ll go into the corner hard, and he’s right there to support you. So, he’s a good player, he’s smart and, we’re happy to be playing together, and we want to keep it going.

Does the preparation change when facing a team [Carolina] near or at the bottom of the standings?
It’s the same every game. I mean, you look at the, the thing we’ve talked about a lot here is they don’t allow a lot of shots. They’re getting better. I mean, there’s no bad teams in this league. Everyone’s competitive; everyone’s a good team, so you’ve got to respect everyone. We’re sure it’s going to be a hard game tonight, but we’re ready for it.

4:00 PM: Here's what Leafs forward Tyler Bozak had to say following Friday's morning skate.

Any sense of personal vindication regarding your steady production without longtime linemate Phil Kessel this season?
Yeah, I mean, it’s early still, there’s a lot of hockey left to be played. I’m just trying to, you know, do whatever I can to help the team. Obviously it’s nice when the production is there, but the most important thing is to win. You know, we’ve been winning as of late, so we’ve got to keep that going, and keep getting better as a team.

On the importance of playing with confidence:
Yeah, I think so. I think, you know, I’ve learned that playing here; you’ve got to try and be a confident as you can. You always play better when you’re confident. Obviously when we’re winning now and we are putting points up, the confidence is easy to come by, so we’ve just got to try and stay confident and keep improving as a team and getting better.

On being named an assistant captain by Mike Babcock:
It was a huge honour. I’ve been here awhile now, and, it’s obviously an honour to wear a letter, especially on a jersey with the Toronto Maple Leafs. I try and be a leader, I may not be as vocal as some of the guys, but I try and lead on the ice, and, you know, try and talk to everyone, try and get along with everyone in the room. I think I can do that, and help the team that way.

What was Coach Babcock’s message to you coming into this season?
He just saw me as a leader. He wanted me to lead. You know, he thought I played the right way. He wants to use me as an example, I guess. He wants me to work hard. So I try and work hard and try and play well defensively, and put up points offensively, and do stuff like that.

3:15 PM: Leafs TV caught up with Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf ahead of tonight's game against the Hurricanes.

3:00 PM: Here's what Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say following Friday's morning skate.

Leafs TV

What might separate two teams who play identical systems tonight?
Well, work ethic and execution. Obviously they're going to compete very hard, it's well documented they don't give up very much. We tried to express that to our players yesterday that the game is going to be tight. Lots of times in the schedule the other team's standings prepares you. They scare you and you get prepared, so they prepare you. When you're playing Toronto or you're playing Carolina, you've got to prepare yourself because the standings don't reflect them in that kind of light. Yet, the way they play and how organized they are and how hard they work is going to make them hard. They've got a young back end, one in each group that can really skate. I think we're in for a big test tonight and we've got to be ready.

What did you see in Bozak from a leadership point of view this season?
I just thought he's a guy we have to have lead. To me he's of the age and he's done some good things in the League. I always thought when we played against him that he was an important player and that he could be a lot better player so we're working hard at that. He's embraced that. I don't believe leadership is at all about what you say as much as what you do and how you live and how you prepare. Those are priorities for us. I think we've done a real nice job with our leadership group in Hunwick and Bozak and Phaneuf, they've all been excellent that way. It's important to grow that core of your team so you have more guys in that group and the more guys leading the better off you are.

What have you seen from Bozak offensively?
He's doing a good job. He got healthy, they had the baby -- he got injured, had the baby, got worn out and then he's come back and played pretty well for us. I thought he was playing real well -- I thought his best game of the year until this last little bit was the Ottawa game, I thought he was fantastic and then he fell off. It's good to have him back but there's peaks and valleys through the year. You've just got to keep pushing.

Do you get a sense of satisfaction when you see former assistant coaches having success?
Well obviously I take great pride in that. I believe in every company the CEO should have a succession plan and I also believe that you're more likely to get good assistants when they know if they come with you, you're going to help them get better and they're going to get jobs. I think it's important you let people develop. I thought Ken Holland did a great job in Detroit with Jim Nill, Steve Yzerman, Pat Verbeek and all the coaches. I thought we did a real good job. We hired really good, strong people with their own opinion and helped them develop into what they're able to become. I think [Bill Peters] is an outstanding coach, just like I think [Jeff Blashill] is, Paul MacLean, Todd MacLellan, all those guys, Tom Renney. We had a good run there and ideally the guys will get an opportunity. If your team does well, coaches tend to get opportunity. We've got a lot of work to do here obviously to become a team that everyone knows your team but if you do that, your coaches get opportunity.

What can you speak to with Bill Peters and his character as a head coach?
Just energy, he's just unbelievable energy and passion for the game and he's a good guy. Pete could be, if he wasn't working right here, he could go to the oil patch in a second, he could sell ice to Eskimos, he could do whatever he wanted to do. He's a great human being, he makes people better, he's a good coach. I knew Pete early and then kind of -- even though I've known him the whole time I wasn't involved with him as much. It was actually Pete DeBoer -- I tried to hire Pete DeBoer in Detroit one year and he said, he wasn't taking the job, "why don't you hire Pete?" I hadn't thought about Pete at all, he had played against him in the Memorial Cup and was the guy who got me thinking about that. And then when I hired him he did a great job for us and it's good for him he's getting this opportunity.

Why is Peters a valuable asset to a coaching staff, looking ahead to the 2016 World Cup?
One of the things -- the job description he's been given at the World Cup is sometimes, some guys might not perceive it as one of flattery. You're not on the bench, you're doing all the pre-scouts, you're doing all the work. He knows me, I know him, I know he's a dog on the bone and he's going to get the job done. I think you need -- you know, Todd MacLellan brought Jay Woodcroft -- you need someone who's doing that. As a head coach, if you're a head coach for a long time, you don't even know where the pucks go in practice, you're just not used to doing the things. Pete was an assistant not that long ago and he's got a skillset and his energy is through the roof.

2:30 PM: The Leafs held morning skate at PNC Arena in Raleigh today.

2:00 PM: The Toronto Maple Leafs begin a back-to-back tonight in Raleigh when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Leafs are coming off of a 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night. Toronto got goals from Leo Komarov, Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk and a pair from P-A Parenteau en route to the win. James Reimer made 34 stops to earn the victory. Reimer will get the start against Carolina tonight.

The Hurricanes last played on Monday night and took a 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at PNC Arena. Noah Hanifin scored the first goal of his NHL career in the loss while Eddie Lack made 16 saves. Cam Ward will get the start on Friday for the Hurricanes. He's 5-6-2 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .898 save percentage this season.

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

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