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Game Journal: Game 46 - Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

2:15 PM: Tonight's officials will be Kevin Pollock and Brad Watson. Matt MacPherson and Brian Mach will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in can watch on Hockey Night in Canada, listen on FAN 590 and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Bob McGill get you set for puck drop with their Leafs Game Preview.

1:30 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Canadiens.

Toronto Maple Leafs

47 Komarov - 43 Kadri - 40 Grabner
23 Matthias - 42 Bozak - 15 Parenteau
19 Lupul - 24 Holland - 26 Winnik
32 Leivo - 56 Froese - 25 Clune

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

34 Reimer
45 Bernier

Montreal Canadiens

67 Pacioretty - 14 Plekanec - 11 Gallagher
27 Galchenyuk - 51 Desharnais - 22 Weise
15 Fleischmann - 81 Eller - 43 Carr
32 Flynn - 17 Mitchell - 21 Smith-Pelly

79 Markov - 76 Subban
74 Emelin - 26 Petry
28 Beaulieu - 45 Barberio

39 Condon
40 Scrivens

12:50 PM: Here's what Shawn Matthias had to say ahead of Saturday's game vs. Montreal...

Leafs TV

Are the opportunities coming when you get to the net?

Yeah, we've had some tough times trying to score goals right now. We're trying to simplify things, get the puck up to the D and be in front of the goalie, be in the pain. Try to get some ugly ones. It was a tough game, the last one, against a team that played a similar system to us. It wasn't the most exciting game, it's disappointing we didn't win that one. We have a good test tonight against a team that has had some struggles, but I'm sure they're hungry to go. It's going to be a fun night. It's a Saturday night in Toronto with some big time ceremonies so we're all excited for that and we'll all be up for this game.

What's it like to park yourself in front of a net?

That's just paying the price. You're going to take some abuse from the other team's D-man, sometimes even from the goaltender. That's what you've got to do to score goals in this League nowadays. You don't see too many rush goals around the League, most of the goals going in this year are right around the net, right around the paint. You've got to pay the price and a lot of goals we've score this year -- you look at Leo, he's had success scoring that way. That's the way we're going to keep going. If we want to turn this thing around we've got to play grittier, get in there and be willing to take a beating to put one in.

12:40 PM: Here's Nazem Kadri ahead of Saturday's game...

Leafs TV

Is it a matter of making the game more simple to rekindle the offence?

That's exactly what it is, just focusing on what we have to do to score and the majority of the goals -- probably 85 to 90 per cent of them -- are going to be scored within feet of the blue crease. We've got to focus on getting pucks in. In December we were one of the highest scoring teams in the League so we definitely know we're capable of scoring, we're just in a bit of a dry spell right now but what better way to get out of it than scoring a few goals.

How much of a morale boost is it to not face Carey Price?

We know Carey is obviously an important piece of the puzzle for them but they've been playing some good hockey, that's why we're not going to look past this drought they're on. We still consider them a good team and a good opponent. Game by game anything can happen but we want these two points as bad as they do.

Is this a different hockey club than the one that played them twice in October?

Yeah, totally. I think we're both seeing different looks and we've both made adjustments in order for what happens. Injuries are a part of the game, guys go down but that's an opportunity for other guys to step up that might normally not get as much playing time. We're going to lean on all 23 guys to hopefully go out and get a couple of points tonight.

On Reimer:

He has been playing really well. It seems like pucks are hitting him and just dropping and not bouncing off of him for rebounds and secondary chances. We feel confident in front of him. We'd like nothing more than to get a win for him tonight.

12:20 PM: Maple Leafs forward P-A Parenteau addressed the media ahead of Saturday's game. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

On facing his old team in the midst of their struggles:

I don't look at it like that, I'm going to try to focus like it's the same game and not look too much into it. Obviously there's a little -- it's fun to play against your old team and you want to beat them for sure.

On meeting Dave Keon:

It was great, he's a legend here. He had so many good seasons in Toronto, I played in the arena in Noranda where he's from too. It was pretty special to meet him this morning. He seems like a pretty good guy.

What's the atmosphere going to be like tonight?

I'm expecting one of the better games of the year at Air Canada Centre. Saturday night, playing the Habs, rivalry, the ceremony as well like you said. It should be a really good game, it should be a lot of fun tonight.

Did you try to educate the younger players on Keon?

No, I didn't have time and I'm not wasting my time with that either [laughs].

Did you ever lose confidence in your ability after last season's struggles?

I wouldn't go that far. I don't think you lose complete confidence in your abilities but you do question yourself a little bit when things don't go your way and you miss a lot of time with the concussion I had too. You come in with a lot of question marks and that's what happened at camp but I'm feeling good right now and I don't want to look back at last year. I want to look ahead at what the future can bring me and what the present can bring me with the Leafs.

What did you think the turning point was?

It's hard to say -- you could say [being paired with Bozak] was a bit of a turning point, I think we found some chemistry playing together right away. We had a lot of fun and we kind of took off from there too.

12:00 PM: Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf spoke to the media on Saturday morning. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

No motivation necessary for Leafs vs. Canadiens on a Saturday night?

As a player you love to be a part of these games and to be able to play in them. It's a very historic rivalry that has been around a long time and us as players, we like playing in this atmosphere, we like playing in this rivalry and I'm sure if you ask them they'd say the same thing. It doesn't matter if it's in our building or in their building, when these two teams play there seems to be that little bit more energy coming from the crowd and in the building. You can feel it. As a player you enjoy these nights.

On the desperation of all NHL teams after the mid-point of the season:

From here on out there's lots of jockeying for position in the standings. Every game means something and they're playing for just as much as anyone else is. You look at tonight, it's a game where two teams want to come out, want to play well and want to get two points. We're in the same position. We want to keep building our game, we want to keep squeaking points out and finding a way to get points. I like this rivalry, I think it's one of the best ones in pro sport so as a player you're lucky to play in these games and you enjoy the atmosphere.

On Reimer warranting focus for his play this season:

I think Reims has been real good for us all year. He has been very consistent, he has made some key stops at key times of the game. When it comes to goaltending those are big momentum shifts in games. They've obviously had to adjust with losing their goalie, that's no different than any other team when a goalie goes down, especially the starting guy. It affects your team. I think that they're seeing some of the effects of that. It's the National Hockey League, that stuff happens. He [Carey Price] is a great goalie, he's a big part of their team but we expect a tough game tonight. There are no easy games in this League and we expect a solid performance from their team whether they've got their goalie or not.

11:45 AM: Here's what Mike Babcock had to say after Saturday's morning skate...

Leafs TV

On Dave Keon spending time with the Leafs this morning:

It's a privilege, it's a real privilege. It's an honour. I was very fortunate. Original Six is special because of those things, I said it yesterday. My friendship with Mr. Lindsay in Detroit is second-to-none. It made me a better coach, a better man and it was humbling to be around. To have the opportunity this morning that we did to have Mr. Keon in our room to talk to our players, talk to our coaches, to be around someone who obviously did it right, was very competitive and a real pro. I think it's important to be around people like that. The other thing I'd say to you is, it was interesting one of those stories he shared with me, someone told him when he first started in his first year, are you working hard or do you think you're working hard? There's a big difference. That's a reminder to all of us. Whether we're a journalist, whether we're a coach, whether we're a player. We always think we're givin' 'er. Sometimes you have to have a look at your body and have a look at who you are and what the work you've done lately is. That's who you are. Time to dig in. I thought it was a great message.

Do you feel a different buzz with the matchup being what it is?

I wake up pretty buzzed every morning. I said we honour Tim [Horton] every morning but lots of times I don't need that and I'm ready to go on game day any way. It's special. It's two Original Six teams with a lot of history. I think if you look at the standings right now, neither team feels they're -- how do I say this the right way -- they're in their rightful place. I think it's important that you are. When you have the opportunity that we have in Toronto or they have in Montreal, you should have a franchise that's second-to-none. That's what we're going to build.

Has James Reimer taken advantage of his opportunity this season?

I sure think so. I was asked yesterday about Bernie and what's interesting is Bernie has really competed and worked here of late and played well but you can't take away what Reims has done. You've got to give the guy credit. I watched the chances again last night of last game. We went through the game yesterday. When they get chances they don't look like chances anymore. They just don't look like they're going to go in. He seems relaxed and confident and comfortable and he earned that right. He spent all summer working at it, he's worked hard with Stevie [Briere], they have a plan and he has earned the right.

How much different is the challenge against Montreal without Carey Price?

The great thing about it is we don't have to prepare for Carey today so that's a great thing. He's a real goalie, he's as good as they come. I'm hoping for the game that he gets back healthy and gets back playing. I'm not that disappointed he's not playing tonight to be honest with you but you'd like him to be healthy and playing. He's a real goaltender. Now, in saying that, the kid playing net for them has played real well and played real hard and given them an opportunity. That's all you can ask.

Could you have predicted this offence from Leo Komarov before you took the job?

No, and I couldn't have predicted it after training camp and I couldn't have predicted it a month in. You have to do it every day to play as good as he has played. The great thing about him -- I like that when he's scoring, don't get me wrong -- but if he's not scoring he's good too. Whether he's on the penalty kill or the power play or matching up, he's a useful player that plays hard every day. The thing I like about him best he's a man. And what I mean by that he's zero maintenance. He's a positive maintenance player, he makes the players around him better by being who he is and how hard he works. You don't have to hook booster cables to him in the morning to get him going or none of that. He's ready to go, he likes hockey.

11:30 AM: The Maple Leafs return to action on Saturday night when they host the Montreal Canadiens at Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs are coming off a 1-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. James Reimer made 40 saves in the overtime loss for the Leafs. Toronto fired 32 shots on Carolina's goal but couldn't solve Eddie Lack. Reimer will get the start once again for the Leafs against Montreal.

The Canadiens haven't played since Tuesday when they were handed a 4-1 loss by the Boston Bruins in Montreal. Mark Barberio had the lone Canadiens goal while Mike Condon stopped 20 shots in the loss. He is slated to get the start at Air Canada Centre.

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

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