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Game Journal: Game 58 - Predators vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs



4:00 PM: Tonight's officials will be Brad Meier and Dan O'Halloran. The linesmen will be Michel Cormier and Ryan Gibbons. Those looking to tune in can watch on TSN 4, Sportsnet 590 The FAN and by following the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Bob McGill preview tonight's game against the Predators.




3:20 PM:
Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Predators.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

40 Grabner - 43 Kadri - 49 Leipsic

38 Greening - 33 Arcobello - 15 Parenteau

26 Winnik - 24 Holland - 28 Boyes

32 Leivo - 56 Froese - 25 Clune

Defence

52 Marincin - 44 Rielly

51 Gardiner - 20 Corrado

55 Loov - 50 Percy

Goaltenders

34 Reimer

45 Bernier

Nashville Predators

Forwards

19 Jarnkrok - 92 Johansen - 18 Neal

9 Forsberg - 63 Ribeiro - 15 Smith

33 Wilson - 12 Wilson - 38 Arvidsson

20 Salomaki - 28 Gaustad - 57 Watson

Defence

59 Josi - 6 Weber

14 Ekholm - 4 Ellis

2 Bitetto - 8 Granberg

Goaltenders

30 Hutton

35 Rinne



3:15 PM:
James Reimer gets the start vs. Nashville tonight. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

What have you enjoyed about being a Leaf the most over the years?

Well the media is the best part... I just think it's a great place to play. The atmosphere of the city, just the expectations, the excitement, what makes Toronto one of the best places to play. When things get going it gets wild, it gets loud and it's a great place to play.

Has this been as consistent a season as you've had?

Yeah, probably. Obviously you're always going to have ups and downs but this year we've worked really hard and obviously as a team we've made big steps. And so, as a team you grow, individually you grow, we've put some work in and hopefully we can finish strong here the last 25 or so games and finish on a good note.

How different is communicating with the defence in the absence of some longtime veteran Leafs?

It's tough, those guys [Phaneuf and Polak] are great d-men and the play hard. It's tough to see them go because they were great competitors but obviously we've got some guys coming in who -- some of them have played before and some of them are pretty new -- but they play with a lot of passion and a lot of heart and they compete. As a teammate that's all you want. You want a guy that goes in there and leaves it all on the ice. These guys, they've got a ton of skill and they've got a ton of compete. It's just a matter of making sure of communication there and having fun.

Are you champing at the bit to get back at it with your first start since Chicago?

I think as far as that it's your first action since and that was the other day. So now it's just more about building off that last game and trying to put a full 60 together.



3:00 PM:
Brendan Leipsic is set to play the team that drafted him tonight. Here's what he had to say following morning skate...

Leafs TV

Do you think you'll be able to keep up your goal scoring pace?

I don't know, I guess we'll have to see tonight. I'm looking forward to the opportunity and I'm just trying to make another good impression.

What do you want to accomplish with this chance?

I'm just trying to show that I've developed into a player that can at some point next year challenge for a full-time job. It's kind of what my focus is this year and just kind of play the way I've played with the Marlies. Just come up here and try to contribute.

How has your game grown since joining the organization?

It's grown a lot. I've always kind of been good with the puck and stuff like that but away from the puck and defensively -- just play without the puck is probably the biggest thing.

Do you have a little more pep playing the team that traded you?

Yeah, it's exciting. I never knew when I'd be playing them or how soon it would come but I'm excited to play them and it definitely makes it a little more special.

How surprising was it to be traded from Nashville?

I was surprised for sure. I played four years in junior in the same spot and I was a first-year pro, you don't usually expect to get traded. I'm happy with the way it worked out and I'm looking forward to getting a shot at them tonight.

Has everything dulled down for your family since your debut?

Yeah, it was a pretty wild couple of events there last week. It was obviously really exciting to see their reaction and how much they've sacrificed for me to get to that point. It was cool for sure.

Has the transition been made easier by the way Mike Babcock and Sheldon Keefe have things set up?

It's been great, everything is pretty much the same here. When you do get the call you're a little bit more ready. Last year was a little bit different. It definitely makes the transition coming up here a little more easy, a little more comfortable. You don't have to think as much out there. When you go out there you can just go out there and play.

Do you have any guys on the other team you're especially looking forward to playing?

There's a few guys who I played with there in Milwaukee last year in the minors so that'll be cool facing off against some of those guys. I played in juniors with Ryan Johansen so that'll be pretty cool also.

How much has all the playoff hockey you've played helped your development?

A lot, I went to the finals every year there in junior. I've played a lot of hockey and playoff is always a fun time. I'm not sure how much the junior playoff hockey translates to the pros, it's a whole different animal. I got a little bit of a taste of it last year so hopefully we can go back with the Marlies and do some damage there this year.



2:45 PM:
Viktor Loov gets set to suit up for his third NHL game on Tuesday night when the Leafs host the Predators. Here's what he had to say...

How do you feel you've fared through your first two games?

I think I've played, it's what I expected. It was a little bit faster but I think I can keep up with the tempo and it makes me feel a little bit more confident.

Do you find yourself trying to integrate your game slowly into the NHL level?

Yeah, I think I have to be a little bit careful with those hits so I don't get out of position, but at the same time even though it's NHL games, it's a learning process still. I've only played two of them and I think it's going to take a lot more to really feel comfortable in it but you have to try your ways too.

Have you found the number of Marlies on the roster is easing your transition?

Yeah, of course, but at the same time you get to know the guys during training camp. They're nice guys, every one of them. Some of them have been here for both of my training camps, they know who you are and I know who they are. I feel comfortable up here.

How have Mike Babcock and DJ Smith helped you with the big club?

They have given me some small tips, mostly DJ because he's my D coach. I've got to listen to them because they know what it takes to play here and I think they want the best for me. I've just got to listen to them.

On potentially taking on friend and former teammate Petter Granberg:

Yeah [it'll be fun], but at the same time a game is a game. We'll see if we get into any battles. It will be a tough one if we're going to have one.



2:30 PM:
Here's what Mike Babcock had to say following Tuesday's morning skate...

Leafs TV

What kind of an opportunity do the young players have?

A great one. Leiper [Leipsic] is starting on a line with Grabby and Naz, he's playing on the power play, it's a good opportunity. Percy's in the third pairing -- it's real simple here, if you play good you play more and if you don't play good you don't play as much. With coaches it's all about trust. When they trust you they put you out more. If you're good without the puck pretty soon you get more chances to play with the puck. That's the opportunity for these guys. Leiper was a real good player in junior, a star in junior, he has come in to his own in the American Hockey League. I saw him play the other night and in four shifts he made a play to set someone up four straight times. Can he do it in the National Hockey League? I don't know but I'm going to watch and find out. Now we have an opportunity with the injuries we have to give these guys a go and, it's like anything in life, if you do a good job someone notices and they let you keep doing it.

Are you following the plan of only bringing up Marlies when they're ready?

Well, what we've tried to do is try not to bring anybody up all year long. It didn't matter how good you played, we didn't bring you up. We try to keep you down there and get you playing good and gain your confidence and bring you up at the right time. I don't know what's going to happen over the next few days, I just know we play Nashville tonight and these guys are here and that's who's playing. That's kind of what I've got for you.

Is this the youngest NHL team you've coached?

I've got a couple of greybeards. I've got Boyes and P-A and, who else is in the lineup -- I've got one more of them -- Grabner. Those are the old guys tonight, I think I have one more. I could be wrong. Those are the old guys and then a bunch of young guys. Just because you're young, what they say is potential, that's like a dirty word if you don't do anything with it. You've got to do something with it. Which kids are going to be NHL players and good NHL players? I don't have the answer for you. What we're going to do is we're going to bring them here, we're going to watch them and they decide.

How close is Jared Cowen to playing?

Well, because of his hip, his hip is very tight. We're dong everything we can. He's been skating and working and stretching, but an injury that happened in 2012 just doesn't loosen up over night. His power in his hip, it has affected his skating obviously for a long time, and so what we're trying to do is catch him doing it right. By doing that, we've got to get him to be at a level so he can play and be confident in his ability to skate and turn. That's what we're working on.

Is Bozak getting closer?

Yeah, he's going to have to skate, really skate and then we'll see where he's at. He's getting closer. We didn't see Hunwick again tonight. Hunwick and Bozak and Leo would really give us some veteran leadership to help us settle down and play right.

Do you see a younger version of yourself in Sheldon Keefe?

I don't know him good enough for that. My other experiences with other coaches, I worked closer with them. Even though we're close together, he's running his team and I'm running my team so I haven't got to know him in the same way. I couldn't tell you about that. You'd have to ask the management group about that.

1:45 PM: The Maple Leafs are back at it on Tuesday night when they host the Nashville Predators at Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs are coming off of a 5-4 OT loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night. The Leafs got goals from Peter Holland and Byron Froese, as well as the since-traded Shawn Matthias and Nick Spaling in the loss. Jonathan Bernier started Saturday's game. He and James Reimer combined to stop 23 shots. Reimer will get the nod in goal on Tuesday night.

The Predators beat the Montreal Canadiens in a shootout on Monday night in Montreal. Viktor Arvidsson had the Predators' lone regulation goal while Craig Smith clinched the win in the shootout. Pekka Rinne stopped 28 Canadiens shots in the win. Carter Hutton is expected to play the second leg of the back-to-back in Toronto.

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

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