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Game Journal: Game 64 - Senators vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

4:00 PM: Tonight's officials will be TJ Luxmore and Steve Kozari. Scott Driscoll and Mark Wheler will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in to tonight's game can watch on Hockey Night in Canada, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

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

3:45 PM:
Here are tonight's projected lines for the Maple Leafs and Senators.

Toronto Maple Leafs

41 Soshnikov - 43 Kadri - 47 Komarov
11 Hyman - 39 Nylander - 37 Kapanen
40 Grabner - 24 Holland - 49 Leipsic
38 Greening - 23 Laich - 26 Smith

2 Hunwick - 44 Rielly
51 Gardiner - 20 Corrado
52 Marincin - 8 Carrick

45 Bernier
31 Sparks

Ottawa Senators

68 Hoffman - 93 Zibanejad - 6 Ryan
15 Smith - 44 Pageau - 61 Stone
43 Dzingel - 23 Gomez - 90 Chiasson
13 Paul - 27 Lazar - 25 Neil

3 Methot - 65 Karlsson
2 Phaneuf - 5 Ceci
46 Wiercioch - 45 Wideman

30 Hammond
32 Driedger

1:30 PM:
  Here's what Morgan Rielly had to say on Saturday morning...

On playing Phaneuf:
It'll be very different but I'm looking forward to it. He plays the game hard, he's an honest player. I'm looking forward to competing against him and it'll be fun.

Do you think you're a faster team now than earlier in the year?
Yeah I think we're playing with lots of speed. I think that the PK looks good, we're quicker on the PK, we're quicker getting out of the zone, the forecheck is good with all the speed. It's changed but these young guys can skate and that's added a new aspect to our game.

How do you expect the fans to react to Phaneuf?
I think it'll be cheers. Dion had a great career here in Toronto, he always treated the fans with respect, he was active within the community. The people in Toronto here know hockey, they know he was a good person. I'm personally expecting cheers but you never know.

Do you think it'll be emotional for him tonight?
I think so, yeah. I think after he got traded it was a shock and it was hard on him. So, for him to come home this soon, I'm sure he's probably looking forward to it. He'll have lots of emotions going but he's not exactly that much of an emotional guy so I think he'll be able to manage them just fine.

How has the blueline rebounded since his departure?
I think it has been good. We've got some young guys now that are playing well, they're playing more minutes and have more of a role with more responsibility and I think it's been going well. But, as a group, we've got to continue to get better. Every day is a chance to improve so we've got to take advantage of it.

1:10 PM: Colin Greening faces his former team tonight. Here's what he had to say ahead of the game...

How do you feel as you get set to face your former organization?

It's a lot of excitement. I think given the fact that it's the Battle of Ontario, I know first hand there's a lot of energy in those games, it's fun to still be a part of it and I know it's going to be mixed emotions obviously, playing against those guys for the first time. It'll be fun to play against them.

How challenging can they be as you look to establish yourself at the net?

They know my tendencies but I know their tendencies too. I think as long as I use my body in the ways that I can protect the puck, I think overall I should be okay. They certainly know me as a player.

Is containing Karlsson easier said than done?

That's something Mike will address tonight. Erik is obviously a dynamic skater. He's fast, he's very quick with the puck. I think just getting above him is going to be the key but that's something we'll address tonight.

How do you look back on your time in Ottawa as you turn the corner here?

I don't want to say what happened, it's in the past, it is what it is. All I know is I'm thankful for them for finding me a spot here. They could have left me in Binghamton but Bryan [Murray] and I had a really good conversation last summer and he said he was going to help me find a spot to play and he was good on his word. I'm very appreciative of that.

Has it been a good transition?

Yeah, it has. I know the city really well and I've been given some opportunities and it has been fun back playing in a Canadian city.

1:00 PM:
Nazem Kadri spoke to the media on Saturday. Here's what he had to say...

On playing Phaneuf:

I told him I was going to try to dance him tonight and he said he was going to try to line me up if I did. I told him the reward would be a lot higher than the risk. I may try to go after him. Like I said, once the puck drops he's the ultimate competitor and he certainly wants these two points.

Are you feeling the identity starting to gel with this team with all the new guys?

I think so, it's still pretty early and it's still pretty premature. As they start to gain more experience and start to understand what the tendencies are, I think chemistry between the young guys is good already, obviously being teammates from early on in the year, which definitely helps. Just to get the experience of playing against the best guys, that's something I had to learn also. There's no easy nights in the NHL and you start to learn that pretty quick.

Does their speed stand out in the few games they've played?

Yeah, it certainly does. For sure they can skate, that's one of the positives and that's how they're going to succeed is being able to move their feet and have control of the puck. When you're more competitive and you execute in the D zone, you're going to have the puck in the offensive zone more often. I think that's what everyone is starting to understand.

12:50 PM:
Here's what Jake Gardiner had to say on Saturday morning before taking on the Senators...

Is it going to be interesting, after playing so long with Phaneuf, to play against him?

I probably won't face up against him too much but I can imagine guys will be talking to him out there. It's always fun playing an ex-teammate. You say hi before the game and then when it's game time you kind of dial in and there's no friends out there.

On Phaneuf as a good fit for Ottawa:

I've talked to him a few times about that. He really likes it there, he feels comfortable. He says the guys have been great to him and accepted him right away. I'm happy for him.

Have you seen a change of pace on the blueline since his departure?

Yeah, I think guys had to step up. Power play minutes, PK minutes for Marty (Marincin) and, you know, with him gone, he played all situations and, like I said, guys had to step up.

Do you think you'll shoot more after that goal on Thursday?

Yeah, that felt good to score, especially against Minnesota. It's fun to score against your hometown. I think I maybe should start shooting more.

What did you see on that play?

It was a good screen by, I think it was Greening, but I don't think Dubnyk saw much of the puck just because there was a lot of chaos in front and that's usually when a lot of pucks go in.

12:40 PM:
Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock addressed the media on Saturday morning. Here's what he had to say...

How do you expect the reception to be for Phaneuf?

It should be outstanding. In my opinion, and I just had a limited time, he's a good man, he played hard, he trained right, was great with -- Rielly and Gardiner love him, and why would they love him? They love him because he looked after them and took the heat off of them. Rielly and Gardiner never got much heat, he got the heat. He was a good teammate, tried hard for the organization, was our captain. When he's done his career he'll go up in the weight room with the rest of the guys. Not many people get to be the captain of the Maple Leafs.

What did you see in the room that the public didn't see?

Well, my kids like me too and then the guy they see on camera and what they talk about and who you are -- I don't know if that matters much to him. I always said to him, "Stop watching the media, watch the hunting channel and listen to country music and the people that matter in your life that matter, they matter, they have an opinion. The rest don't matter." I think he's a really good man, I think he's got his head on his shoulders, I think he has helped Ottawa and really helped us. We're not as good a team thus far without him, we knew that. I don't know. I just think we should say thanks.

What's the weight room that you're referring to? Are the pictures up there?

At our facility, the Mastercard Centre, is as good as there is in the world. It's incredible. And they, bigger than life size all across the wall are the captains. I don't care who you are, I talked to him about that when he was here is, it's got to be pretty special knowing you're going up on that wall. I know in Detroit we had it and when you're up there with Yzerman and Lidstrom and Zetterberg will go up there next, those are special people that get that opportunity. They don't just give you that stuff. There must be something about you that allows to earn the right to be there.

Do you have a plan for the next captain?

No plan. No timeline... The great thing, when I was in Detroit, when Lidstrom was done being the captain, I don't know if it was Mr. I [Mike Ilitch] who chose it or Kenny Holland or I who chose it but we all chose the same guy so it didn't much matter. That's usually what happens. So, and if you would have asked the players they would have chose the same guy too. I think in the end when it becomes obvious to us who the next captain is, that's when it'll be... Right now I don't even want to think about it. We purposely haven't got any of our kids, even though we demand some of our kids lead. We expect Kadri to lead, we expect Rielly to lead, we've given given our assistant captains to our veterans who are doing it right every day and when someone is ready they'll get the opportunity. This is the first time I've talked about it. I haven't to Lou about it one time, I haven't talked to Shanny about it, but I'm pretty sure you'd get the same thing from them.

Would you be comfortable if you played next year without one?

Yeah, but we've got a game tonight. You're thinking way more than me.

Did your perception of Dion change when you got to coach him?

Yeah, just like everyone else I had heard stuff -- I had dealt with Dion in Olympic camps and he had been excellent. The guys at Hockey Canada every time they had him said he was excellent. Obviously the reports here when I arrived weren't as good. Found out right away from our first conversation right on. I think what you can do for about three weeks, you can actually fool somebody in life. After that you just are who you are. In our game you can't hide, it just keeps coming out every day. He's a good human being who did it right.

Were you that close to getting him in Detroit last year?

I don't know, how do you ever know if you're close to getting somebody? Neither do I. You can speculate, we didn't try to trade Dion. They came to us with it. So, I don't know how these things all happen or how they all come down in the end. I think when we tell you we don't know what's going to happen you don't really believe us, like we've got something under our sleeve. It doesn't work like that. You think you've got a deal for a guy and he's not done. Or you don't think you have a deal and then there's a deal.

How much has the captaincy of a hockey club changed over your years in the game?

I don't see it like that [as symbolic], I see it -- I think at the National Hockey League level, not only do you have to be a good human being and you've got to do it right, but you've got to have a certain skillset. And, when you don't have enough skill, I think it's hard to be a captain in the National Hockey League. I think you need both. But, I also think there should be a big core on your team that leads and the more you have that lead the better off you are. The other thing I know about leadership, when you're not playing well yourself, it's pretty hard to talk. Usually you've got to be looking after your part. That's why you've got to be good enough, because your game has to be going good enough. When your game isn't going good, it's just like you in your life. If your job isn't going as good, you're probably not spending as much time paying attention to your wife and your kids if you're focused on your job. When your job is going real good you can be aware of everything going around you. It's the same with leadership.

What have you learned about Soshnikov through three games?

I like him, he's greasy. He plays hard, he competes, he likes to shoot it. He's got a swagger, a confidence about him. His English isn't wonderful yet but he's a good kid, wants to play hard, he plays hard every night. Him and Hyman are older than those other kids so I think it's easier. It's still a man's league and it's a hard league.

How do you communicate with him?

When he sits here I do good. But, when the action is going on and you call him out, I try to make sure he sits next to somebody on the bench that he's going with. You try to be as organized as you can. The other night when Brad Watson was trying to talk to him I just let Watson know that he probably didn't understand what he said. In the heat of the action it's a little harder.

Do you get the sense this is a faster team now than at the start of the year?

I think we're faster for sure but you want results too. Like you said, I thought we played real well the last three games, I really did. But, we didn't win. So, if you're those guys or you're me, I like winning. That's why you come to the rink and that's why you play and when you don't it's hard for you. In saying all that, I think we're organized, I think we're competing hard. We've got find a way to score some more goals. The team we're playing tonight lit us up last time. We didn't perform well. The building was half full with Maple Leaf fans who paid their good money to watch us play and we didn't. We better be better tonight.

12:30 PM: The Maple Leafs are back at it on Saturday night when they host the Ottawa Senators.

The Leafs are coming off of a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. Jake Gardiner had the lone Leafs goal against the Wild, while Garret Sparks made 20 saves in the loss. Jonathan Bernier is expected to get the start for the Leafs against Ottawa.

The Senators last played on Thursday and took a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Marc Methot had the goal for the Senators while Andrew Hammond made 25 stops in the loss. Hammond is slated to get the start for the Senators in Toronto on Saturday night.

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

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