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Game Journal: Game 6 - Maple Leafs vs. Sabres

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs



3:30 PM: Paul Hendrick gets you set for puck drop from Buffalo as the Leafs take on the Sabres at 7:00 pm. Tonight's officials will be Jon McIsaac and Steve Kozari. Mark Shewchyk and Scott Driscoll will handle the linesman duties.

To follow the game, tune in on Sportsnet 1, TSN 1050 and on Twitter by following the #TMLtalk hashtag.




2:30 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Sabres.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards
21 van Riemsdyk - 43 Kadri - 47 Komarov
23 Matthias - 24 Holland - 28 Boyes
26 Winnik - 16 Spaling - 19 Lupul
40 Grabner - 33 Arcobello - 15 Parenteau

Defence
52 Marincin - 3 Phaneuf
2 Hunwick - 44 Rielly
36 Harrington - 46 Polak

Goaltenders
45 Bernier
34 Reimer

Buffalo Sabres
Forwards
23 Reinhart - 90 O'Reilly - 63 Ennis
9 Kane - 15 Eichel - 88 McGinn
26 Moulson - 28 Girgensons - 12 Gionta
44 Deslauriers - 22 Larsson - 82 Foligno

Defence
4 Gorges - 55 Ristolainen
29 McCabe - 3 Pysyk
6 Weber - 46 Franson

Goaltenders
33 Johnson
50 Lieuwen



2:00 PM: Leafs forward P-A Parenteau spoke with the media ahead of tonight's game in Buffalo. Here's what he had to say...
Leafs TV
What has the club been able to do at even strength that can be seen as a positive?
I think we're working pretty hard, we're competing and we're skating really well down the middle, we're tracking back too. We're doing a lot of good things and I think it's going to show into wins anytime soon here if we keep doing the right things.

Is there an indication that results will also come on the power play?
Yeah, I think we're doing good things. We're bringing the puck to the net like we want to. There's still some adjustments that we've been making the last few days which will help us score goals I think. We've got to stay with it. I think we're moving the puck well and that's a good sign.

Is Buffalo's speed a concern tonight?
We know we're going to have to slow them down. They're a real fast team this year with the addition of Eichel and Kane. I think if we can slow them down in the neutral zone and in our own end a bit it's going to help our D get the puck back.

How important is the below the hashmarks work in practice?
It's been a good thing. This is where the goals are scored and we've been working hard on that area of the game since training camp and I think we'll see results really soon here.



1:30 PM: James van Riemsdyk met with media following today's morning skate. Here's what he had to say...
Leafs TV
What are things Mike has hammered home with this team and what are the things you're still working on?
One key thing has been playing as a five man unit all over the ice and making sure the D are supporting the forwards in the offensive zone and vice versa. I think we've made some strides in those categories and done a lot of good things, we just need to get some results from it.

Results aside are things getting through and what do you see getting through?
I think it's been good with the structure we've been playing with and we've been giving ourselves a chance every night to get two points. Obviously we haven't gotten the results we've wanted consistently enough. I think our process has been pretty good and hopefully we can stick with that and we can start getting some better results.

What have you noticed that's new structurally?
I think it's very detailed and we all know what's expected of us. Just the way he communicates that and makes sure everyone knows what they're doing, that communication has been key.

What's the Buffalo/Toronto rivalry like, especially in this building with a split crowd?
It's always a fun building to play in for me, it's always a good crowd from both sides. Even back when I played for Philly, playing in here it's always a fun building to play in and, again, it's a good rivalry, a divisional game which means the points mean that much more. We'll be ready to go.

On the importance of getting the first goal:
That's always huge in any game. You want to get that first one, get off to the good start and keep building from there and playing the right way.

Is it hard to tell if Mike is happy or upset behind the bench?
We don't usually look back too much, he's usually talking to us when we're facing the ice so, again, obviously sometimes he'll draw some things up so we're not paying attention too much to that [his facial expressions]. He's good at communicating on the bench and making sure we all know what's going on.



1:00 PM: Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf spoke to media following Wednesday's morning skate. Here's what he had to say...
Leafs TV
What does Mike bring to this team as a coach and what messages are you picking up?
The biggest thing for me is organized -- if I could pick two words it would be organized and structure. He's very organized in the way he goes about his days with meetings and video. The way he demands his team to play is structure. If I'm going to say two words that could sum it up pretty quickly, those would be them.

Are those messages easily getting across to players?
I think our group has done a really good job of grasping. Anytime you have a new coach -- I'm sure they'll [the Sabres] say the same thing there -- there's new systems, there's different structure to the way the coaching staff wants you to play and you've got to learn that. We've done a good job of learning that through training camp and early on. I think the practice week we had where we were off for four or five days helped us. When you have a new system in place, a new coaching staff, the more time you have to practice the better. I think you can see it in our game. We're taking steps in the right direction but we have to find ways to win games.

Does that structure help you stay within yourself when the building is energized like tonight will be?
There's lots of excitement in this building when we play here. It's a 50-50 split probably in Toronto and Buffalo fans. With that, they bring the energy, they're competitive with it in the seats and it's a good atmosphere to play in. We've got to find a way to have a good start. It's a different team over there than past years, that's for sure. They've added a lot of skill up front, speed. You've got Kane on the wing, he can skate. Eichel, obviously he's a very talented young player. The biggest thing I've noticed from watching games is his skating so they've got some speed and they've added a lot pieces. It's a different group than years past.

Do players take notice of when the fans get into it?
You notice -- any building you play in, as players, we notice. There's different buildings around the League that have more energy than others. There's rivalries, that adds to it. Every game is different, every building you play in is different but when you play Toronto-Buffalo with how close Toronto is, we've got a lot of fans that come down and show their support here. It builds tension in the seats and they're competitive with each other so it gets pretty loud.

Does the club have to find a way to compensate offensively without Gardiner or Bozak tonight?
Any time guys are out of your lineup, especially pieces like that, it's an opportunity for guys to step up. Injuries happen to all teams, we're no different, but I think it's an opportunity for other guys to step up and for other guys to fill those holes.



12:30 PM: Leafs head coach Mike Babcock provided his updates to the media ahead of tonight's game with the Sabres. Here's what he had to say...
Leafs TV
Is he a better coach than player going back to your days with Dan Bylsma?
He's a good coach and a good player and a good person. Obviously he has worked hard at his craft and always had a lot of energy and had some time off. Every time you get some time off you get a chance to look at yourself and improve yourself and he's trying to do that here. I wish him luck every night except when he plays us.

Where is Gardiner?
He's at home because he's injured... I don't know how serious it is. Day-to-day that usually means 10. I don't know the answers to any of that.

What have you seen from P-A Parenteau and what would you like to see going forward?
He had six shots on net last game, I liked that. I think he's been good on the power play. He's just like a lot of us, we've got to compete every shift, all shift, the whole shift and keep our feet going. As a group of forwards we're trying to be better at that and we'd like to spend more time in the offensive zone. If you don't win pucks and you don't win races and you're not heavy on it you have a hard time playing in the offensive zone. He fits in good with the group that way, we could all get better in that area.

How much importance do you place on the agility of your blueline to open up shooting lanes?
I just think every day you're trying to make your players better and being able to skate and move the puck is important, whether you're a forward or a d-man. You've got to find a way to get the puck to the net, they're trying to not let it get to the net. You've got to find a way to get it there and you've got to have somewhere there when it arrives.

Why is the 40 second shift important to you?
Because science would tell you you're running out of gas. It's the kind of sport that you build up lactic acid in your legs and you can't keep playing. To me it's just a science thing, that's the way your body is built, that's the way it works. The other thing I like about 40 second shifts is when you add up 40 seconds at a time and you share it evenly, whether you go a minute at a time, you end up with the same amount of ice time except you're fresher. It just kind of makes sense to me.

What has Brad Boyes offered you at this stage of his career?
He's an intelligent guy who tries to make the people around him better. He's another guy, just like P-A, you've got to dig in and move your feet. The problem with the game today, you might have real good hands and you might be able to make real good touches when you get it, but who's getting it for you? You actually have to go get it sometimes. That's another challenge for him is you've got to get involved each and every night and compete to have pucks so you can make plays and so you can score.

What have you seen that you've liked and what are some of the things you'll keep trying to hammer home?
I think the big thing is they've been listening every day and they've been great. They've tried to get better each and every day. That doesn't guarantee you success. The other thing about it is under the gun you revert back to who you were or who you are so until we get those things to be automatic, we're going to see things like that. I like the majority of the things we're trying to do. We've just had some lapses.

What are the biggest challenges when you start as a coach in a new city?
Finding a good restaurant, finding a place to get your hair cut, figuring out how to get back and forth through traffic when you don't really know the city, getting some furniture. If you go buy it on your own, your wife kicks you out of the house. If you don't buy it on your own, she orders special stuff and it takes long and you don't have furniture. Stuff like that.

What are your thoughts on how coach's challenges are working?
I just think the idea is to get it right. If I'm a referee or a linesman at the end of the night, I want to have got it right. I think of nothing worse than those guys trying to do it right but we get to slow down and rewind it, the public gets to watch you make the wrong call over and over again. That makes no sense to me. Get it right -- with today's technology it takes about two seconds.


10:30 AM: The Toronto Maple Leafs will look to build off their performances in Columbus and Pittsburgh over the weekend and pick up points when they take on the Sabres tonight.

The Maple Leafs picked up a 6-3 win in Columbus on Friday night and took a hard fought 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Leo Komarov scored three goals over two nights -- including the lone Leafs marker in Pittsburgh -- to move into the club's goal scoring lead. Jonathan Bernier will get the start against Buffalo tonight after stopping 24 of 26 shots on Saturday night.

The Sabres enter tonight's game with a 1-4-0 record. On Saturday they fell by a 2-1 score to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Tampa. Sam Reinhart scored his first NHL goal in the loss while Chad Johnson stopped 20 of 22 shots. Johnson is expected to get the start tonight.

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

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