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Game Journal: Game 25 - Maple Leafs vs. Jets

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

5:00 PM:
Tonight's officials will be Brian Pochmara and Rob Martell while Steve Miller and Brad Kovachik will be the linesmen. 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 Winnipeg to get you set for puck drop. Take a look...

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

Toronto Maple Leafs

21 van Riemsdyk - 43 Kadri - 47 Komarov
23 Matthias - 42 Bozak - 15 Parenteau
26 Winnik - 16 Spaling - 40 Grabner
24 Holland - 56 Froese - 28 Boyes

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

31 Sparks
34 Reimer

Winnipeg Jets

16 Ladd - 18 Little - 26 Wheeler
85 Perreault - 55 Scheifele - 12 Stafford
22 Thorburn - 6 Burmistrov - 27 Ehlers
17 Lowry - 9 Copp - 14 Peluso

2 Pardy - 33 Byfuglien
39 Enstrom - 57 Myers
5 Stuart - 8 Trouba

30 Hellebuyck
34 Hutchinson

3:30 PM: Maple Leafs alumnus Trevor Kidd stopped by the Leafs dressing room today to congratulate Garret Sparks on a great debut and check out his pads, which are a tribute to the set Kidd wore during his time in Toronto. Take a look...

3:15 PM: Maple Leafs goaltender Garret Sparks will get the start in Winnipeg after recording a shutout win in his NHL debut on Monday night. Here's what he had to say following Wednesday's morning skate...

Leafs TV

With one under your belt, what's the anticipation like to get a second?
I just want to settle in again, play my game and go out with the same mindset every game. I want to give my team a chance to win and just do my job.

How would you describe the last 48 hours?
It's been hectic, it's been exciting, it's been fun, it's more than I expected. I'm just trying to enjoy it.

Is there less nervous energy now that you have that game under the belt?
I have the same amount of anticipation and nerves for every game. I don't treat more seriously than another, I guess. I try and go in with the same mindset every game.

How many messages did you get over the last little while?
Luckily I messed up my phone about a week ago and haven't been receiving any text messages so everything has gone to Facebook and Twitter thankfully. It was a nice little coincidence.

What do you expect from playing here in the MTS Centre?
I expect it to be loud and I expect it to be fun and there to be a lot of energy and lots to feed off of. I just want to keep myself in check and stay true to my game plan.

What's the most hostile environment you've played in?

Probably Kitchener in the OHL... It was a hard place to play in.

What did you see from the team's D zone coverage on Monday?
They did a good job of picking up guys who were dangerous and I knew what my responsibilities were based on the coverage. When you know what your job is and you know the answers it's a lot easier.

What has James Reimer done for you as a goalie?
Ever since I've been here he's reached out to me, he's never been afraid to show me the way and if I need help I feel like I can ask him. He has been very supportive and, like you've said, we've been on very similar paths so he knows exactly what I've gone through to get here. It's nice to have somebody like that showing you the way.

Was leg strength something you worked heavily on from July onwards?

Yeah, core strength was the main thing. I dealt with injuries last year and I knew that I needed to attack certain areas of my body, which I knew were maybe weaker than others and make sure my weaknesses became strengths. I guess when you have weaknesses they have the potential to become strengths if you work on them. That's one thing I attacked this summer and I've seen the benefits so far.

How much weight did you lose?
I finished the season in Orlando at 223 and I weigh in at about 200 each day now.

Was that a focus in the offseason?
Oh yeah, it was the only thing that mattered... I couldn't play at 223. Not here.

Are the 2012 USA World Junior tryouts the only time you crossed paths with Connor Hellebuyck?
Yeah he was at that camp with me and I think we were similar goalie at that point. Raw, kind of flying under the radar and it's great to see what he has been able to do. He went the NCAA route, I went the OHL route and it's kind of cool to see us back both here in the same place.

On the matchup with Hellebuyck:
I think the fact that there is another 22-year-old, US born goalie at the other end of the ice just speaks volumes to the USA Hockey staff and all the work they're putting in with the goalies and the emphasis they put on learning the proper techniques and how much hard work those guys put in.

Does Bernier going down on a conditioning stint take pressure off you at all?
No. Every day is a work day.

3:00 PM: Leafs TV caught up with Maple Leafs centre and Winkler, Man., native Byron Froese on Wednesday morning. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

What does it mean to come back to Winnipeg with the Leafs?
I've got a lot of people here and it's definitely special to play here. The last time I was in this building I was playing high school hockey. It's definitely quite a change.

How competitive was your high school time before you went off to play junior?
Yeah, at the time I thought it was pretty competitive. Who knows? We were in the championship game and had a tough game and lost but it was a fun part of my career.

How many people will be making the trip from Winkler to Winnipeg?
I don't know, I'm guessing around 30 or so, maybe plus. I'm not sure.

2:45 PM: Here's what Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say following Wednesday's morning skate.

Leafs TV

On Jonathan Bernier:
Bernie will be -- if everything checks out with Reims today like we think it's going to -- then Bernie will report to the minors for a 10-day conditioning opportunity. He wants to get back his game, we want him to get back his game and so we've gone through the process and we feel this is the best for him and for our team so he can find his way back to being the goalie he's capable of being for the Leafs. That would start -- I think they've got three the next two weekends and he'll play four of the six the next two weekends, get his game back and then he'll be in our lineup.

How did Bernier respond to the decision?
Good. He's no different than the rest of us, we all want to be good at our job and feel good about ourselves and when things aren't going good there's a gamut of responses you go through and obviously we need to get him feeling good about himself and being confident and helping us win games. That's the process we're going through.

How important is D-zone structure against a heavy hitting team like Winnipeg?
Well I'm hoping we're not in the D-zone. Let's get back and break out fast and not spend a whole lot of time wasting energy in the D-zone. They're, when you watch them, when you watch the other team's pre-game skate, you think gee, they've got a good-looking hockey club. A real good-looking hockey club.

Is there a plan to use Clune the next couple of days?
I don't know, we are down a player in Lupes, we're on a road trip and play a back-to-back, it's easier to have guys with you. He's not in the lineup as of right now tonight but we'll see what happens.

Do you expect Reimer to play tomorrow?
That would be my thought process. I think I've started with everything by saying we're going to wait until he's off the ice, we're going to get him checked one more time again and make sure everything is good. If everything is good we'll make decisions based on that.

Does the emotional story around Sparks lift the room?
I think winning makes you all feel better. I think Sparks was great. I never knew anything that happened but someone told me afterwards and I got Brew to show me. Any time you play your first game in the National Hockey League and it goes good, I think it's positive for you organization, for yourself, for your family, for the work you've put in. We all know one game doesn't make a career but you've got to start with one and go from there. He gets another opportunity tonight, good for him.

Is this a short term thing with Lupul?
That's a good question. Everything is short term and they always seem to be 10 days. I think that's short term in this League, that's what I've found.

On Nylander and Kapanen potentially playing in the World Juniors:
I just think if they're not playing for us they should be playing. They're young enough and I think it's the greatest, one of the greatest events for hockey in the world. I think it's a spectacular thing. Playing against your peers, obviously those guys are good young players, their consistency isn't where it should be, but they're good, good young players and they have a chance to impact their country's success if they embrace it and go back and understand they're just part of the team and they make their team better. That's important.

1:45 PM: The Maple Leafs get back at it on Wednesday night when they visit the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre.

The Leafs are coming off of a 3-0 shutout win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. The Leafs got a pair of goals from Leo Komarov and a single tally from Nazem Kadri to provide the offence in the win. Rookie goaltender Garret Sparks recorded 24 saves en route to the win in his NHL debut.

The Jets haven't played since November 28, a 5-3 loss at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche. Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Jacob Trouba scored for the Jets while Michael Hutchinson stopped 20 shots and took the loss. Rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will oppose Sparks in goal for the Jets.

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

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