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Game Journal: Game 29 - Lightning vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

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

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

51 Gardiner - 3 Phaneuf
2 Hunwick - 44 Rielly
20 Corrado - 46 Polak

45 Bernier
31 Sparks

Tampa Bay Lightning
90 Namestnikov - 91 Stamkos - 86 Kucherov
17 Killorn - 11 Boyle - 42 Marchessault
23 Brown - 51 Filppula - 24 Callahan
47 Vermin - 46 Blunden

77 Hedman - 6 Stralman
25 Carle - 5 Garrison
55 Coburn - 62 Sustr
89 Nesterov

88 Vasilevskiy
30 Bishop

3:15 PM: Leafs TV catches up with Joffrey Lupul who is set to return to the lineup tonight after missing five games with a lower body injury. Take a look...

2:45 PM: Maple Leafs defenceman Frank Corrado makes his Leaf debut tonight. Here's what he had to say about the game...

Leafs TV

Has it felt like been a long time coming to get to today?
Yeah, I think so. When you sit out obviously you want to play but I could have been in worse situations and I'm obviously very grateful for the opportunity that Toronto is giving me here. I'm just excited to show what I can do tonight and play my game.

What's the biggest challenge in playing after a long layoff?
Your timing, everything has just got to come back. I think the key for me tonight is just to keep it simple, play my game, move my feet, be physical, get bodies when I can and just shut the mind down and play the game. When you get down to it it's a hockey game like any other and that's what I have to do tonight.

How will the five man group help you keep it simple tonight and moving forward?
You can see exactly what we want to do when we break the puck out. We always want numbers, we want to hit the middle of the ice. Those are things I've been seeing as the games have gone on and it's nice to go in knowing exactly what the team wants to do and being educated on exactly how the team wants to play. I think if I got thrown into the fire when I first got here I would have been a little behind the eight ball systems-wise. I think now I know exactly what the team wants to do and it's up to me to contribute to that.

Does a full week of practice help you get in rhythm with teammates?
For sure, getting a regular turn in practice, getting familiar with a partner and obviously every day at practice there's a new theme at practice. Coach has us prepared this week and I'm sure for the other guys it feels like a long time between games. I think everyone is excited to get back out there tonight.

What's your excitement level like?
It's huge, a hometown kid playing for the Leafs tonight. It's a dream come true. There's not much else to it. I'm just going to put the headphones on, put some music on, walk over here tonight, it's going to be a great feeling. I just want it to continue tonight throughout the game and after the game as well.

How many friends and family will you have here?
Probably 40 or 50 people here, there are going to be a lot of ticket sales tonight... We told people to see if they could get some tickets and I got some close friends and family some tickets. It's going to be pretty special.

What are some of the challenges that come with playing the left side?
You see the ice a little different, your stick is on the inside of the rink as opposed to the outside, going back for pucks a lot of the time you're on your backhand instead of your forehand. I think if you're a good enough skater you can move your feet and put yourself in positions to make plays. There's also pros to playing on the left side. It's a little bit different but it should be good.

On comments from Vancouver's GM on his situation:
I'm not going to comment on that. They can say what they want, I'm not there anymore and they made their decision. That's fine with me. It's my job here to prove to everyone the player I can be here and I'm not going to talk about that.

Did part of you worry this opportunity wouldn't come?

I don't know, that stuff shouldn't cross your mind, it didn't really because Babs and Lou had told me there's a plan for me and I don't think that plan would have been to pick me up for nothing and just put me back on waivers for no reason. Throughout the whole time I knew there was something that was going to happen and there's was always communication from them to stay ready, stay in it and be ready to go when my name is called.

Is there anything you can take from the last nine weeks as a learning experience?
Yeah for sure, you can always learn in this league. You have to come to work every day, prepare to grind and work hard and I feel like every day, doing a little extra after practice, doing a little extra in the gym, that's just to stay ready for the game. I don't think that should leave, that kind of mindset that hey you're coming to work hard today and grind it out.

Do you know what you have to do to stay in the lineup?
I haven't really looked at it that way. I've just got to play my game and be true to who I am as a player. That stuff has got to fall into place. If I start thinking about what I have to do to stay in the lineup, that's when you start overthinking and doing too much. I think it's just play my game and be myself.

2:00 PM: Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier is set to return to the crease tonight after a conditioning stint with the Marlies. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

Does this game feel different from other games?
No I've just got to put everything aside and focus on my game tonight. That's what I'm worried about.

Are you excited?
Yeah, definitely. I think the last two weeks have been good for me and a lot of positives. I just want to carry that feeling I had in my game to tonight's game and keep building.

Where is your confidence level compared to where it was?
Well when you play games you feel good about yourself and obviously I got some wins so I feel pretty good.

On the importance of working on the little things to improve his game:
Yeah, definitely. You want to work hard in practice and stay on top of your game but, at the end of the day, you've got to have that feeling of playing in front of people, playing a game and with pressure and things like that. It was good for me to go down and play some games.

Is there a greater sense of predictability re: structure in the NHL?
It's a great league [the American League], guys can shoot it. The system, it's probably easier to play here. There's a lot more structure sometimes during games. It's still a great game, there are some great players and the Marlies have a great team so it was fun to be with them.

12:45 PM: Leafs head coach Mike Babcock spoke to the media on Tuesday morning. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

What are you looking for from Bernier tonight?
Just to be who he is. Allow himself to be who he is, he had three real strong games in the minors and one not as good. We need him to be good and he wants to be good and we want him to be good and we think we had a plan, we stuck to the plan and now the next part is the execution at our level.

How satisfied are you with how the plan went for Bernier with the Marlies?
Ask me tonight... I mean, it's been great, everything is good, he got to play, he got three wins. His confidence -- if you go three and one every four games in this league, life is good. When you have a save percentage like that, life is good. He's a proud guy, he's a good pro, he's been a good goalie in the League and things have gone wrong for him. How do you handle that and how do you bounce back?

Do you get a sense the team wants to rally behind Bernier?
Yeah, sure but they want to win. They want to win, they wanted to win the last game, they want to win this game, they want to play well. We've been off I don't even know how long, it seems like three months and so the first 10 minutes are big for us tonight.

Does Lupul's return give you some scoring throughout the lineup?
I hope so, usually when guys come back they're not quite as good but ideally he'll give us some pop there. He's a heavier guy on the cycle, he's good on the cycle, he seems to find ways to score. We're not putting him with the group he played with tonight until he gets playing good, maybe then he'll go with that group. We'll start him with Froese and go from there.

What have you learned about Frank Corrado?
He's a great kid, honest, works hard every day, he's gotten a lot stronger since he's been here. He wants to be a player, we haven't given him an opportunity. He's got an opportunity now, let's see how he does.

Do you mean he's gotten physically stronger?
Oh yeah, the great thing about sitting out every day is you've got lots of time to do that [work out]. Obviously there's the part that you see and the part in developing players and getting people stronger so they're ready to compete at the National Hockey League level. Lots of players -- Stralman is a fine example of that of a guy who when he first arrived in the League, it took him a few stops to become the player he was capable of being. You see it over and over again. You'd just like him to do it on your team and not on two teams down the road.

What is it like to have speculation on your future be the big story?
I don't think you think about it to be honest with you. Everyone else thinks about it, I think what you do is you focus on what you're doing because you're a pro and you try to be the best you can be. If you think that it affected my job or my life or any of that, it didn't at all. It's going about being the best you can be, the only time it bothered me to be honest with you is when I came here and people would be yelling at you, 'eh, you're coming here.' Other than that you don't even notice what was going on. You didn't even worry about it. I expect it's the same for him. The noise around you only affects you if you listen to it. You just get on with your life. Hunting channel and country music, you don't even know what's going on.

12:00 PM: The Toronto Maple Leafs will make a long-awaited return to game action on Tuesday night when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs last played one week ago when they defeated the New Jersey Devils in a shootout at Air Canada Centre. P-A Parenteau and James van Riemsdyk scored for the Leafs while Nazem Kadri had the shootout winner. Garret Sparks made 25 stops to earn his third career victory and second on home ice. Jonathan Bernier has returned from his conditioning stint with the Toronto Marlies and will get the start for the Leafs on Tuesday night.

The Lightning took on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night and won a 2-1 game. Jonathan Marchessault and Brian Boyle scored for Tampa Bay while Ben Bishop made 25 saves to earn a victory. Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to get the start in goal against the Leafs.

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

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