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Game Journal: Game 30 - Sharks vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

4:15 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Sharks.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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

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

31 Sparks
45 Bernier

San Jose Sharks

9 Zubrus - 19 Thornton - 8 Pavelski
68 Karlsson - 12 Marleau - 42 Ward
27 Donskoi - 50 Tierney - 57 Wingels
18 Brown - 48 Hertl - 83 Nieto

7 Martin - 88 Burns
44 Vlasic - 61 Braun
4 Dillon - 74 DeMelo

31 Jones
32 Stalock

4:05 PM: Leafs TV also caught up with Frank Corrado and James van Riemsdyk following the skate. Take a look...

4:00 PM: Rookie goaltender Garret Sparks will face the Sharks for the first time when he gets the start for the Leafs tonight. In his four career games, he has a 3-1-0 record with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage. He is 2-0-0 in that time when playing at Air Canada Centre.

Here's what he had to say ahead of tonight's game.

Leafs TV

How does it feel to have the faith of the staff and get another start?
It's just another opportunity and obviously it's a numbers game at this point. There's two good goalies ahead of me and unfortunately James is injured right now. Like I said, it's just another opportunity to get in net. I'm looking forward to it, I love playing hockey and I love getting starts. I'm really looking to take advantage of it.

What's is your confidence like compared to your first game?

It has been three weeks now I think and I've been able to get on the ice almost every day with these guys and practice against them. We have a very good team and a very talented team and to go on the ice with them every day, it gives me an opportunity to work on my game every day and get a little bit better. Obviously I feel a lot more confident in my game now than I did my first game. I'm hoping that it translates.

On the numbers game with Bernier and Reimer and getting his opportunity:
I take it day-to-day. I don't worry about much beyond that. I show up every day and compete and try to make myself better and my teammates better. I challenge them and they challenge me and it's a good situation.

What have you learned about your teammates in this stint?
I've learned that they want to get better. They show up every day and work just as hard as I do. I feel like it's a contagious attitude. Obviously we have a head coach who demands a lot of us and that's the way it should be.

What has the team done to take pressure off you in this stretch?

Just the way they've played in front of me. They've played great games in front of me all four games I've started. The Winnipeg game didn't go how I wanted it to and I'll still shoulder the blame for that one. I'm way past that. They've showed up and competed for me every night and I've just tried to return the favour.

What do you think will stand out about these three weeks when you reflect on them?
I'm sure just the freshness of the experience. There's a lot going on, there's a lot to get used to in a little amount of time and it has been a lot of fun, it has been hectic and I wouldn't even say it's been stressful because it's been so enjoyable. Looking back on it, it has happened quick but I can't ask for much more than the opportunities I've been given.

How important are competitive practice days in getting ready?
Well yesterday was unique because I didn't have it to start the practice. It was the first time I really had to dig in in the last couple of weeks. I thought I finished it strongly. It's more about how you finish than how you start. I just show up every day and try to compete and if things aren't going my way I go back to the drawing board, start over again and take it from there.

How easily have you managed to communicate with your D?
It's something we've been working on. Obviously communication is that much more important a this level of the game, it's that much faster. You have to put pucks on guys sticks and there's less room for error. It's definitely an area I've tried to work hard to adjust to and I try to make their life as easy as possible back there. I don't want them ever getting run and it being my fault. I do all I can with the puck back there to keep them safe and break us out easy.

Are you a goalie who likes to handle the puck?
I just like to make a play with it and make a good hockey play with it every time I can. There's always someone open I feel like and if I can find that person then I'm doing my job with it.

3:00 PM: P-A Parenteau spoke to the media following today's skate. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

On the productivity of the line in recent games:
It's been going pretty good. It's fun to play with those guys, they bring a lot to the table. Obviously James is a great goal scorer, he likes to be at the net. Me and Tyler, we like to make plays. I think that's why it's working out so good. We're skating too when we have the puck.

What can you tell us about Bozak's passing ability?
He's got great vision, he's always been known for that. It makes life easier for your wingers when you have a centreman who moves the puck and makes the play at the right time. He has been all of that so far this year for me.

What makes San Jose such a good team?
They've always been good. A big team, fast, they play the game well and the right way. It's no different this year. They're not where they want to be record-wise but you can't take them lightly. They have so much firepower and we have to respect them. We're going to have to skate tonight if we want to win this game.

What's the key to getting off to a better start?
I'm not sure, I think we've got to be prepared and we've got to be ready to go when the puck drops. I don't think it's been a matter of that in the last few games. I think we've been a little unlucky to give up the first goal. We've shown a lot of character in those games scoring the second one. It would be nice to score the first one against a team like that for sure.

12:45 PM: Here's what Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say ahead of tonight's game vs. the San Jose Sharks.

Leafs TV

What are the challenges of taking on San Jose?

They're a good team, a real good team. The top two lines have lots of skill, their D can really skate from the back. They're a team that's played hard, been a real good team for the last number of years, weren't quite as good last year but we all get a new opportunity this year. We look forward to playing them.

How different is your comfort level with Sparks vs. three weeks ago?

Three weeks ago I called Sheldon [Keefe] and Sheldon said to me, 'Don't worry about him he's not scared of anything, he's going to be great tonight.' I thought that was a positive thing. He's gone 3-1, a big part of it is the guys believe in him. When your guys believe, they don't play nervous in their own zone. Everyone does their own job. When the guys don't believe everyone is so busy doing someone else's job, no one does their own job. Goaltending is a huge part of things, you don't even notice it. I don't know if anyone watched the Boston game, the guy looks so relaxed in the net that it looked like the scoring chances weren't even scoring chances. That's what you're hopeful for.

How do you measure how much belief a team has in a goalie?

How they are. Are they stopping in their spots? Are they relaxed? Are they playing efficient? I think it's very easy to see when your team is calm in front of your guy.

Is Bozak's play away from the puck changing habits for him?

I think he has really worked hard at it. I think a lot of guys have worked hard at it. I'm a big believer that you can play real well without the puck and have the puck all the time and always be on offence and I believe there's another way to do it where you can cheat for offence and end up a minus every single year. I like the other way because it leads to winning.

What are the challenges of facing Burns and Vlasic?

Well, Pickles [Vlasic] is a high, high-end thinker, slides good, skates good, really good without the puck. Burnsy is a high, high-end skill, really jumps on offence, has got an absolute bomb. They're different types of players.

Is this Sharks team much different from the ones you had battles with in Detroit?

I think so. Patty [Marleau] and Joe [Thornton] are a little bit older but I think Couture and Pavelski are really good players. Pavelski now sets the competition level for this team. They're a good team. As we all know it's hard to be good every year in the League and it's hard to have a run that lasts longer than 10 years. It's just the way it is with a group. If you set your group up real well you can have a good run. Today with the cap, it's harder. As soon as you get good your players are of a certain age, especially if you rush them to the League before they're ready to play and then they're free agents and you're paying them too much money before you're ready to.

Are you giving Matthias more of an opportunity on the power play?

It's just -- the power play is because Boyes is out of the game and there was an opportunity there. We're just trying to -- the guys who play the hardest get to play.

What are the biggest concerns you have going into this game in terms of matchups?

Well I know who the top two lines are, you do too. I didn't even have to watch them to know that. I've got that figured out.

If Sparks continues to play well does it make the decision hard when Reimer gets back?

The way I look at it is real simple: we like to win each and every night. So, when you play well, you get to play. The beauty of the system is I don't have to worry about tomorrow or the next day or any of that. I can just live right here today and look after it.

12:30 PM: The Toronto Maple Leafs continue a four-game homestand tonight when they take on the San Jose Sharks at Air Canada Centre at 7:30 pm.

The Leafs are coming off of a 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Rielly and Daniel Winnik scored for the Leafs while Jonathan Bernier made 22 stops in the loss. Garret Sparks will get the start for the Maple Leafs against the Sharks.

San Jose head to Toronto after earning a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Joe Pavelski, Dainius Zubrus and Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks and Martin Jones stopped 26 shots on goal to earn the victory. He is expected to get the start against the Maple Leafs.

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

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