Here are Wednesday's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Capitals.
Toronto Maple Leafs
41 Soshnikov - 43 Kadri - 47 Komarov
37 Kapanen - 39 Nylander - 11 Hyman
28 Boyes - 24 Holland - 40 Grabner
38 Greening - 26 Smith - 23 Laich
2 Hunwick - 44 Rielly
51 Gardiner - 20 Corrado
52 Marincin - 8 Carrick
8 Ovechkin - 19 Backstrom - 77 Oshie
65 Burakovsky - 92 Kuznetsov - 14 Williams
25 Chimera - 90 Johansson - 43 Wilson
83 Beagle - 10 Richards - 26 Winnik
27 Alzner - 2 Niskanen
44 Orpik - 9 Orlov
88 Schmidt - 6 Weber
4:20 PM: Here's what new Leafs forward Ben Smith had to say ahead of Wednesday's game in Washington...
What's it like transitioning to a new team and taking on teams like Tampa Bay and Washington?
It's been interesting, I had the experience last year of doing the same thing. A little different situation than being the only guy in here coming in here and being a part of a big group of guys, trying to fit in and figure out the systems and everything. It's great. It's an exciting time to be a part of the Maple Leafs and I'm just trying to show what I can do and help this team win.
Is this a chance to prove you can stick in the NHL?
Yeah, that's the main thing for me coming from the situation I was in, just wanting to keep proving that I'm an NHL player and it's nice to have that opportunity. You don't get that everywhere and where else would be better to do it than here in Toronto and with the Maple Leafs.
Is there a six degrees of separation when you come into a new room?
Absolutely, you know a lot of guys around the League and you've played with guys they've played with so there's always a familiar feeling when you walk into a room. I was fortunate enough to know three or four of these guys from before and it always makes that transition easier.
On his hockey background:
North Carolina born but my family moved up to Connecticut when I was three so I really grew up in Avon, Connecticut. I played prep school in New England at the Westminster School under a Toronto-born guy, Tom Earl who played for the [Hartford] Whalers. I went to Boston College for four years and started my pro career with Chicago and Rockford.
Did you cross paths with Mark Arcobello in Connecticut?
We're the same birth year, '88, grew up in Connecticut, played against each other a ton, played with each other a ton. Hopefully we can be teammates here at some point.
On taking on Fairfield Prep:
Yeah, Fairfield Prep is actually in the public school league in Connecticut whereas Westminster was in the prep school so we never crossed. He [Arcobello] went to Salisbury and we played against each other, Westminster vs. Salisbury.
What about Boston College prepared you to make the leap to the NHL?
I loved it, personally. I was very lucky to play for a coach, Jerry York, who just reached 1,000 wins. A guy who cared about his players on the ice, off the ice, helped us grow and staying four years was really important to me and getting my degree. We were able to have some success on the ice too. A lot of great players that are still playing in the NHL that I was teammates with and it's nice to have that Boston College background because it's a strong hockey tradition there and obviously having Coach York as a mentor, even now, it's a very lucky thing to have.
How many times did you get to lift the Beanpot Trophy?
Twice, twice it's always fun but Coach York loved his trophy season, he loved winning trophies but I always thought he'd like the trophies after the Beanpot that were more important.
4:10 PM: Leafs TV caught up with new defender Connor Carrick on Wednesday. Here's what he had to say...
Were you a forward at one point in time who had to transition?
When I was younger a little bit, real young. But, I always played on teams that were very competitive. We were in a lot games trying to come from behind against the better teams. I had a coaching staff that allowed me to try and go at a young age and they encouraged offence and high skill. I'm not saying I'm all those things in the highest degree, but it was definitely something that, as a kid, was definitely part of my development.
On his first NHL goal:
You know, you talk about the ones you score. I had that same move at the World Juniors that same year and it didn't go in. You look great that one play and not so much the other. I just tried to get the goalie to bite and have a good shot at the net. I was very fortunate to get the pass there and a poor penalty turned into one of my favourite memories.
Is it special to return to Washington tonight?
Yeah, absolutely. You always want to prove people right and you want to prove people wrong. Definitely an organization that passed on me so you want to bring it and, most importantly, you owe it to the club that has taken you in with open arms to try and give them a good effort and make the powers that be look good.
How much grease are you going to need to take on your old junior teammate Tom Wilson?
He's a big boy and he's got a lot of the same ingredients to his game. I think it goes back to the Plymouth Whalers, Mike Vellucci telling us to compete every day. I'm definitely going to have to bring that tonight against a very good team.
On a story that his mom passed up a chance to see his first NHL game to see the Chicago Bears:
False, that's false. That's false. They were there, it was actually in Chicago was my first game so it was pretty convenient. A long time ago now but something I'll never forget.
4:00 PM: Here's what Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say ahead of tonight's game vs. Washington.
On facing the Capitals:
Well I think obviously we played Tampa the other night and it's a real good team here too. It's always good to see your players against the best players and the best team and the most organized, so that way you find out just how far you have to go and it's a good test for the guys. The idea here is to come and get two points, not to come and have an experience.
What kind of role do you see Brooks Laich playing?
I think the biggest thing for Brooks is obviously he's been a real good player in the past and been a real big part of the leadership group here. He had a real good run here. His responsibility on the ice diminished and so we've got to give him some responsibility on the ice, get his game back, get his confidence back in his play and then he can really lead. It's hard to lead when you're not playing much because you tend to just worry about yourself and keep your mouth shut. So, he's a good man, we know all about him. We expect him to find his game and then get playing and helping us.
How do you help a player approach this type of awkward reunion?
We just talk about it, I don't know. What's awkward about it is that you worked hard for a lot of years, you were part of building a program and then now when it looks like they're getting ready to take the step, you're not part of it. But, I know the players over there and then management really respect him. People in this town really respect him. He's a great man when you talk to him. I told him I wouldn't spend a whole lot of time worrying about today, I'd go out and enjoy it and enjoy competing against his former teammates and then. He wants to play a long time, he's 32. He's not 40. Let's get his game back and let's get going.
Does morning skate become more of a teaching cool than usual with a young group?
Well, yeah and to be honest with you I screwed up today because we had our power play and penalty kill shirts on and we probably should have had normal. We were going to do a neutral zone forecheck drill today and then we couldn't do it because they didn't have it. We hadn't been doing this but when you've got young guys and you've got to do more, there's no question you've got to do something and so we did a little walkthrough instead of doing what we were going to do. That's a big part of it. The other part of it though is let's not overdo it. They're good players, let's let them play, let's get out of the way, let's not stifle them by giving them too much information.
Do you like the way Hyman and Soshnikov have integrated with your penalty kill?
Yeah, but I thought Hyman was all over the puck last game. What we do is we go through and give ticks to players when they're involved in plays and he was involved in a lot of them so he's got good speed and good tenacity and works real hard. Sosh is the same way. When you add him to the two other guys, they can do things fast but a lot of kids, just because you do it fast, if you go in the wrong spots that doesn't help much. They'll figure it out over time.
With your emphasis on structure are you okay with the young guys trying to be creative?
Creative dumb isn't what I'm looking for at all but creative smart is a great thing. You make the right plays at the right time and so you make them and what happens in this League, if you can make the right play and you can make plays with the puck, the coach lets you make plays with the puck. If you can't and you haven't beat a guy one-on-one in your life, they ask you to put it in.
What has impressed you with Holtby?
Just because I know his folks I've watched him for a long, long time so I've got a pretty good handle on that. I think one of the things that has happened here and, nothing taken away from Holts, is the structure of the team and also the goalie coach that has come here really got him settled down and playing well. He is a big man, he's athletic, he competes hard, he's confident in himself. He's in his prime and things are going well for him... How do I know his folks? I'm from Saskatoon and they're from [Lloydminster], my wife is from Lloyd. We played ball against them. His mom is a great country singer. What else do you want to know?
How hard do you think it is for the Hockey Canada group to name 16 World Cup players?
They'll only let us name 16 so it's pretty easy. You take the 16 you think you should name and you name them. The hardest part is the part to come, not the first 16. My wife could have done that. It's the rest.
3:45 PM: The Maple Leafs are back in action on Wednesday night when they visit the Washington Capitals.
The Leafs are coming off of a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. Nazem Kadri had the lone goal for the Maple Leafs in a game where the Leafs had seven players make their debut for the team. Garret Sparks made 26 saves in the loss. Jonathan Bernier will get the start for the Leafs in Washington on Wednesday.
The Capitals play the second leg of a back-to-back on Wednesday when Toronto comes to town. Washington defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins by a 3-2 score on Tuesday night. Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and TJ Oshie scored for the Capitals, while Braden Holtby turned aside 28 shots to earn the win. Philipp Grubauer will start against the Maple Leafs.
Stay tuned for comments from Coach Babcock, the Leafs and projected lineups.