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Game Journal: Game 31 - Kings vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

4:00 PM: Tonight's officials will be Marc Joannette and Trevor Hanson while Derek Nansen and Ryan Gibbons will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in can watch on Hockey Night in Canada, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and by following the Leafs on Twitter.

Get set for puck drop with Paul Hendrick and Bob McGill who check in from Air Canada Centre.

2:00 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Kings.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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

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

45 Bernier
30 Bibeau

Los Angeles Kings

17 Lucic - 11 Kopitar - 12 Gaborik
70 Pearson - 77 Carter - 73 Toffoli
49 Mersch - 22 Lewis - 23 Brown
15 Andreoff - 21 Shore - 71 Nolan

3 McNabb - 8 Doughty
6 Muzzin - 27 Martinez
10 Ehrhoff - 5 McBain

32 Quick
1 Enroth

1:30 PM: Leafs TV caught up with Peter Holland following today's skate. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

What's it like for you to move back into the middle with Spaling out?

It's another adjustment for sure. I thought last game it was definitely a transition. I got lost in the D zone a couple of times and they had some scoring chances because of it. I want to make sure I'm doing a better job of that tonight. It's just going out there and playing. Once the puck is dropped it doesn't really matter who is centre, you have to read and react and the first guy back is the first guy back. Just hopefully work well with my linemates and contribute tonight.

Is cycling a key against a big, heavy club tonight?

They're biggest offensively, the forwards, and get in hard on the cycle. They like to work the puck behind our net. We like to do the same so it's going to be a matter of who can do it more effectively.

What have you seen from your linemates and what they can do?

He's such a skilled player, he's got a nose for the net. We've had some brief time together and I like feeding him the puck. He's got a great shot. Winnik too, he's just a really good, hardworking guy, plays both ends of the ice really well and he can make some great passes too. Hopefully we can spark chemistry early on.

Is it all instinct that leads to your goal the other night?

I got kind of lucky, they tried to make a breakout pass that I was fortunate enough to pick off. Winnie made a nice little touch to me to set me up and I glanced up and saw he cheated to the blocker a little bit so I knew I wanted to go low glove and it found a way in.

How do you take hold of the situation when your coach challenges you?

I just try to motivate myself at this point. I want to be the best player I can be, I want to help this team win. So just take that for what it is, but motivate myself to be ready to play every night and try to be one of the best players on the ice.

1:15 PM: Here's what James van Riemsdyk had to say following Saturday's morning skate...

Leafs TV

What change do you see in Tyler Bozak this season?

I think this year we're playing with much more structure as a team and as far as things that he does out there, I've played with him for a few years now. He's still doing a lot of those special things and I guess consistently as a line we're doing a better job of managing the puck and making sure we're getting into a defensive position when we don't have it.

Is it unfair that Bozak's play is still measured against Kessel?

Yeah, that's just how it goes sometimes. Obviously he had a lot of success playing with Phil, our line had a lot of success the last few years as far as putting pucks in the net and stuff like that. In that way you're always going to be tied to certain players. As a player we know what he brings to the table and we're happy to have him here and we appreciate all the things he does for the team.

What does the team's ability to come back say about how the players have reacted to the system?

I think this year we've tried to make it a point no matter what the score is to play the same way. We're not -- sometimes you're down a few early and you've got to keep playing and sometimes we've got to do a better job when we're up to continue to play. It's a learning process and you try to get better than that as the year goes on.

How big and heavy are LA compared to other teams or is there a difference?

Definitely, they've shown the tempo they try to play to over the last few years. They have a big, strong team that likes to cycle in the offensive zone. We want to try to play in our defensive end as short as possible.

1:00 PM: Leafs forward Michael Grabner spoke with Leafs TV following Saturday's skate. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

On the opportunity to play with Kadri and Komarov:

It's good, obviously they're skilled guys and creating offence out there. I'm just going to try to play the same way I have been playing the last games and hopefully I can be a complement to the line.

What kind of a role model is Leo given how hot he has been?

He has been working hard, playing everything -- backchecking, forechecking, he's been doing it all. It's going to be great to play with him and I'm going to try to create some chances out there.

Was the goal on Thursday closer to what you used to do with the Islanders?

Yeah, I had some chances before that and I was hurrying them up -- that's what happens when you're getting antsy to try to score, you rush things. Hopefully I can slow it down a bit and take an extra split second to make a decision.

Have you ever had hot streaks before and could this be the start of one?

Usually I've been streaky, the one year I scored a lot of the goals in a 15 game stretch. Obviously trying to work on your consistency and playing the same way every game -- I'm trying to work on that.

How much emphasis is there on your PK with Spaling out?

We've got to find a way to keep the puck out of our net. We've been good at times and then we have games like Thursday where we give up two or three goals and that can't happen. We've got to be more consistent and stick to our systems out there. We've got to outwork the five guys on the other side.

12:30 PM: Here's what Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say following Saturday's morning skate.

Leafs TV

What do you have to do to continue this point streak?

Well I like that we have points in our last four games. I didn't like our last game. When you don't start on time, you don't compete hard enough, you don't deserve the points. Did we play hard as the game went on? For sure. Tonight, what I like about watching LA, they're organized, they've got good players that play hard, it takes about six minutes to do the pre-scout because you see the same thing over and over again. Good teams don't trick you, they just beat you. That's what we're trying to become is a team that is prepared and does it right every night, period. No exception. No exception from anybody, you just do it right. To me when I was watching LA play, they can say, 'Hey they relied on their goalie.' No. They got up and the goalie made some saves. To me they're a good, good hockey club who is organized, who is built right, they've been doing it for a long time now for 10 years. They look like a real team. It should be a lot of fun for us and a great opportunity.

Are they the model team you aspire to?

Well let's not get carried away. I don't mind that team down the road in Detroit, they do a pretty good job too. There's lots of really good teams. They build it right, they don't deviate from their plan and that doesn't mean they're not trying to pick up new things and get better each and every day. They have a plan, they stick to it and they're not concerned about what the outside thinks, they know what they think and they do it right. The players are coached and they have a chance to win because of it.

What sets Doughty apart from other defenders?

He's pretty good. He's a really, really, really good player. I love Doughts, he's a good kid, he knows how to play right and the bigger the game, the better he plays. He can stickhandle in a phone booth, he can shoot it, he's got the big butt there and doesn't mind drilling you the odd time. He's a real hockey player. He likes it, he has fun with it, good pick by them.

Do you think he gets the same attention of players on the east coast?

I don't know the answer to that, he's doing alright out west isn't he? He's got two Cups doesn't he? He's got two Cups and I think he's got a couple of gold medal too, doesn't he? He's doing okay.

Did we get a glimpse of the offence from Grabner that you'd like to see?

Grabby is one of those guys who -- in the game he's a real good player, ahead a touch and lost his confidence. He's gotten better each and every game all year, he's been an important player for us on the penalty kill and kind of in a matchup role. He hasn't gotten to play with offensive guys. I'm hopeful now because on our chances for he has tons of them but he doesn't finish. Last game now finishing, I'm hoping that's going to translate into something. We need Kadri's line to play with more pace so we're going to give him that opportunity tonight and see what happens.

How has Bozak's leadership impressed you?

What I like about Bozie the most is he has tried to do it right. Every day since training camp he's tried to work harder, he's gotten so that he works harder every day, he works hard without the puck, he's getting to be a better player and he has embraced doing it. To me those are all things of a guy trying to do it right. He probably doesn't appreciate every day that I'm on him but that's what I want him to bleed and I think those guys carry the onus of your team. If they're doing it right there's a better chance of the rest of the guys doing it right.

Has van Riemsdyk picked up his level recently?

I thought his second and third period last game were real good. Obviously he's a big body with good skill. I want to challenge him to be heavier on the puck every day, play more of a cycle game than a rush game. I don't believe there's much of a rush game anymore. That's the challenge and it's to be better defensively as well. I think you can have your cake and eat it too. I think you can have the puck and be on offence and be real good offensively too.

Is there a Reimer update?

I'd hate to give you one because I don't know for sure. Last time we said he was ready, he says he's ready this time too, I don't think he's getting into the net anytime soon though. We've got to have him ready this time for sure. We can't have him back for a day and gone. Last time we thought we did everything right and he hasn't played in a long time. We're going to make sure we overdo it this time.

Do you anticipate any moves before the roster freeze?

I never thought much about it. We've got back-to-back traveling, I'd imagine we'll bring another player on the trip, another forward.

12:15 PM: The Toronto Maple Leafs kick off their homestretch into the Christmas break on Saturday when they host the LA Kings at Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs are coming off a 5-4 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. Toronto got goals from Peter Holland, Leo Komarov, James van Riemsdyk and Michael Grabner in the loss. Rookie Garret Sparks got the start on Thursday but was forced to leave the game due to injury. Jonathan Bernier made 26 stops in relief and will get the start on Saturday.

The Kings come to Toronto after a 3-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens. Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik scored for the Kings in the win, while Jonathan Quick stopped 45 shots to earn the shutout win. He is slated to get the start against the Leafs tonight.

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

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