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Game Journal: Game 32 - Maple Leafs vs. Avalanche

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

6:15 PM: Tonight's officials will be Francis Charron and Tom Chmielewski while Ryan Galloway and Lonnie Cameron will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune into the game can watch on Sportsnet, listen on TSN 1050 and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Joe Bowen check in from Denver to get you set for tonight's game with their Maple Leafs Game Preview.

6:00 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Avalanche.

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

Colorado Avalanche

92 Landeskog - 29 MacKinnon - 9 Duchene
27 Martinsen - 34 Soderberg - 14 Comeau
40 Tanguay - 7 Mitchell - 12 Iginla
55 McLeod - 25 Grigorenko - 8 Skille

2 Holden - 4 Barrie
32 Beauchemin - 6 Johnson
5 Guenin - 22 Redmond

1 Varlamov
20 Berra

5:45 PM: Leafs centre Tyler Bozak played his collegiate career at the University of Denver. Here's what he had to say about tonight's tilt in Colorado...

Leafs TV

On the return to Denver:

I've got a lot of really good friends here and I was able to spend some time with them last night just a little bit and they'll be at the game tonight. It's exciting to come back and play here.

Do you notice the altitude when you're here?

Yeah I do. I'm probably a little more used to it than the other guys but once you leave for a while and come back you feel it no matter what. I think you've got to be here for a little bit for it to not have any effect on you whatsoever.

Would you have bet on Komarov being on pace for 30 goals this season?

I would have taken it. I believe we know how good of a player Leo is, he does everything. He's not just a scorer but he does absolutely everything. He can play power play, penalty kill, he can play anywhere in the lineup and he's finally getting the credit he deserves. He's been doing unbelievable for us and he has been leading us really well. Hopefully he can keep that going, it's fun to watch.

What have you noticed in Komarov's development from his arrival?

He just competes every night, he gives you everything he has every single night he's out there. He's never going to not hit a guy when he has the chance, he's never going to not block a shot when he has a chance and he's also really good around the net and really good defensively. He pretty much does everything you could ask for in a guy.

What emotionally did the Froese line provide for you guys last game?

They were unbelievable. They created a lot of offensive zone time and obviously LA has a lot of big, strong guys -- big, strong defencemen and they were able to create a lot of offence in their end. That obviously gives you a boost when that happens.

Have you noticed more touch and finesse from Leo than the past?

Yeah, absolutely. I think he's gotten more opportunity this year than he has the past year he was here but he goes to those dirty areas where most of the goals in this league are scored now. He's a big, strong guy that's hard to push off the puck and he's always in and around the net in those areas that are hard to get to and hard to win those battles in. I think that's what helps him a lot is getting into those areas.

5:30 PM: Leafs defenceman Matt Hunwick also gets set to make a return to Colorado to take on the Avalanche. Here's what he had to say to Leafs TV...

Leafs TV

What's it like to come back to this building where you played for four years?

I always love coming back to Denver to play in this building and be back in Colorado. I loved living here, it was a lot of fun and obviously playing in this building, I've done it many times. Last year with New York I think was my only time playing against them. I always have fun, there's just not as much air but you try to go out and have a good game.

What is the groove like when you get onto the ice for 24 minutes like Saturday night?

It's a good rhythm. That game there weren't a lot of penalties. I think we only took one and we didn't have a power play that night. In terms of rhythm there's definitely some continuity going out shift after shift. Our team played well so it was easy to do your job, everyone seemed like they were doing their job and it's a lot of fun to play that way.

How important was that kill on Saturday to provide momentum the rest of the way?

I didn't see the penalty, I know guys weren't happy with the call on the ice but it's always big to get the first kill of the game. I think when we've had trouble it's been when we give up that first goal. For whatever reason it gives their power play even more confidence. That first one was key for us and luckily we didn't have to kill another one all night.

5:15 PM: P-A Parenteau returns to Colorado to face his former team tonight. Here's what he had to say about the game...

Leafs TV

On his line with Bozak and van Riemsdyk:

Yeah, exactly, it took a little bit of time -- it took 10 games I'd say before we really figured it out. I feel like we're playing good hockey, we're tough to play against and that's the best part of it.

Is it special coming in here?

Yeah, I had two awesome years here. I love the city, I love playing here. Unfortunately they decided to make some changes but that's how it goes sometimes. I'm glad to be in Toronto right now, I'm having a lot of fun with the guys and this organization.

Is there an advantage for the home side with the altitude?

I think there's a little bit of an advantage here for sure. Playing here we saw it a few times where teams get a little bit of a slow start and they've got to get used to it during the game. It's part of the game, you know. We know exactly -- you know it's going to be the case, it's going to be a little harder to breathe out there but you don't really think about it during the game and go about your business.

What was it like to see the balance in the lineup on top of the success your line has had?

It's nice, that's how you win games and get on streaks in this league. When everyone can contribute, that's exactly what happened last game. Naz's line had an awesome game, Froese's line had an awesome game too. We didn't have that great a game but we're planning on bouncing back tonight against Denver.

On Varlamov:

I've seen it two years ago when he stole about 15 games, he was unbelievable. I think he's back and doing that the last few games here. We're going to have to get some traffic and make life a little harder on him for sure. When he's feeling it he's one of the best in the League.

5:00 PM: Leo Komarov spoke to the media in Denver before tonight's game against the Avalanche. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

Does your production surprise you this season?

Like I told you before, it's bouncing my way right now. We just need to keep going and win the games. I don't really care who scores the goals. I just need to win the games.

How does it feel know your coach sees you as the most competitive guy on the team?

I'm just trying to give 100 per cent out there every practice, every day. When you do that good things are going to happen.

Do you have more confidence holding on the puck?

Yeah, you get confidence when you get wins and points but then I think I could always do that. Now I'm just doing it. It's like I told you, it's just bouncing my way.

What has the addition of Grabner meant to your line?

He's really good. He has so much speed and he helps us out. He goes first into the corners and I'm trying to make space -- we're trying to make space for Kadri. That's actually what we do.

Do you see yourself as a leader by example?

I just want to help the team, that's what I'm trying to do. If it's to block a shot or hit somebody, I'm willing to do that.

4:45 PM: Here's what Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say following Monday's morning skate...

Leafs TV

Is tonight's game a matter of play from the dots down and trying to win in the trenches?

Well I just think that the game was tight, it's 1-0, they get a real quality chance and Bernie makes a big save. It's 2-0, they get a quality chance, Bernie makes a big save. The score ends up 5-0 and you don't really think about those but it was a real tight game, we found a way to win and I expect the same today. If we're going to have success it's going to be in tight games.

What about Komarov and his offensive production has impressed you the most?

I think what impresses me about Leo the most is he's a man, he comes to work every day, competes real hard, he's physical, doesn't take penalties. He plays on the power play, plays on the penalty kill and brings it most every day. When you think of our team and say who's the most competitive guy on the Leafs you'd say Leo so good for him.

On Polak and Hunwick bringing the same qualities as Komarov:

That's what you want, you want to have lots of good guys. Polie is another guy who's just like that every day. Hunny is a real steady influence and a good man in the room and I think that's what you want to do. You want to have as many good people as you can, they make the other people better. I don't care what walk of life you're in, what organization you have, you want quality, quality people.

What does it say about the organization that it has five prospects at the World Juniors?

Well obviously we have lots of kids. We have lots of kids in the AHL that are real good players. We have some prospects that are good but we're going to need a lot more if we want to be an upper echelon team and an upper echelon team that has a chance every year, year after year. We have a lot of work to do in that area, we understand that, we know the process is going to take some time but we're comfortable that our plan is going to have us going in the right direction and we're not going to deviate.

Is this one of the more challenging road trips with the altitude tonight and the desert tomorrow?

I don't know about that, the high altitude. The team is playing real good and Varlamov has been great. Obviously that's a big test. I just know we're getting home at the same time on the 23rd whether we play hard and stay focused or we don't. So, to me it's real simple. Let's do our job, let's be good pros and compete.

Is it possible Jonathan plays the back-to-back?

The great thing about it is we're living today and when today is over with we'll worry about tomorrow.

4:30 PM: The Maple Leafs return to action on Monday night when they visit the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.

The Leafs are coming off of a big 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night. The Leafs got a pair of goals from Leo Komarov and Michael Grabner, while Byron Froese scored the first goal of his NHL career in the win. Jonathan Bernier stopped 26 shots to earn the shutout and his first win of the season.

The Avalanche are one of the hottest teams in the NHL at the moment, having won six games in a row. Semyon Varlamov was named the NHL's First Star of the Week after going 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average and .981 save percentage for the Avs. On Saturday they defeated the Edmonton Oilers by a 5-1 score. Blake Comeau, Tyson Barrie, Nick Holden, Jarome Iginla and Jack Skille scored for Colorado while Varlamov made 39 saves. He gets the start once again tonight.

Stay tuned with projected lineups, comments from coach and the Leafs and more on the way.

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