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Game Journal: Game 66 - Islanders vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

4:30 PM: Tonight's officials will be Justin St. Pierre and Brad Meier. Matt MacPherson and Mark Wheler will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in to tonight's game can watch on Sportsnet, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Bob McGill preview tonight's game below.

4:00 PM:
Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Islanders.

Toronto Maple Leafs

41 Soshnikov - 43 Kadri - 47 Komarov
15 Parenteau - 39 Nylander - 11 Hyman
18 Michalek - 24 Holland - 40 Grabner
38 Greening - 23 Laich - 26 Smith

52 Marincin - 44 Rielly
51 Gardiner - 8 Carrick
29 Brennan - 20 Corrado

31 Sparks
45 Bernier

New York Islanders

29 Nelson - 91 Tavares - 18 Stromes
12 Bailey - 51 Nielsen - 21 Okposo
11 Prince - 86 Kulemin - 27 Lee
17 Martin - 53 Cizikas - 15 Clutterbuck

2 Leddy - 55 Boychuk
3 Hamonic - 14 Hickey
37 Strait - 6 Pulock

1 Greiss
41 Halak

2:15 PM: Leafs TV caught up with William Nylander ahead of Wednesday's game. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

On the transition from the AHL to NHL:

It hasn't really been that much harder than I what I thought. I'm not saying it's easy, but you get some chances against you where they probably could have scored a couple goals. You're learning every day from mistakes.

What would say is the toughest part of playing centre?

You're just trying to get adjusted to the game here. It's played a little differently, that's one of the -- I mean, for the other guys it's probably a big adjustment too from the AHL. It's hard to say exactly what it is. I'm just just trying to get better every day.

On playing with P-A Parenteau in training camp:

It was great. We were able to score power play goals in pre-season, so hopefully we get some chemistry going tonight.

Is it great playing with different players as you get more experience?

Yeah, of course. I played with Kappy and Grabby and Hyman and now I get Parenteau who is going to be a great player too. I think it's going to be lots of fun just getting experience every game.

What has made Hyman so effective?

The way he works every night. He works hard, he's a great PK guy, he's great at protecting the puck in the corners and creating offence. He's been able to play the same way he has been in the AHL.

2:00 PM:
Here's what Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman had to say ahead of tonight's game...

How have you found the chemistry carry over from your time with Nylander in the AHL?

Obviously Will and I played together with the Marlies and now we're playing together here. Every game we've been together. It's great to have a familiar face on your line, someone that you know and have played with so you're used to them. I think that it has transferred over well. We're both fast so we like -- it's makes it a little easier transitioning to a faster pace. We're learning as we go here also, we're only five games in. We're just excited to keep going.

How have you found killing penalties at the NHL level?

I think it's really important. Being able to kill penalties is part of my job and something I did in the American League and something I did in college. To be given the opportunity to do it here right from the start means a lot to me and I take a lot of pride in being able to be a good penalty killer and it's something I hope to do for a long time.

How has it been playing under Mike Babcock and [forwards coach] Jim Hiller?

It's awesome, so many little tips you can pick up as you go on, but it's been great. It's a great experience. Coach Babcock has been a great teacher and we learn a lot, we watch video. Coach Hiller, everybody here has been awesome.

How much did four years at Michigan prepare you for this leap?

I think from last year's team three of us are playing in the NHL right now. They obviously produce a lot of players and, for me personally, it was huge to go to Michigan. I've said it multiple times, Red Berenson has had a huge impact on my career and making me able to become a two-way player. It's something I can continue to do in the NHL.

1:45 PM:
Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock spoke to the media following Wednesday's morning skate. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

On Loov's injury:

I guess in practice we thought it was nothing, lots of guys get tweaks and we didn't think it was nothing, we took a look and tried taking care of it yesterday. When we got on the ice he couldn't go. Brennan will play tonight.

What does Parenteau do down the stretch to earn a contract next season?

I think it's a good question. I mean, he has done a lot of really good things here. He has scored for us, he's played hard for us, he's backchecked for us, he's worked for us. Now he's got to do the same thing. One thing I know about the League, it's real fair that way. You do good things, everyone is looking for players. Just because you don't have a contract at the end of the season doesn't mean you're not going to have one. We're all going to be scouring everybody else's players and we're going to say, "Which guy can be the next Matt Hunwick? Which guy can be the next -- ?" That's what you're looking for. This guy has played real hard. So, what I would do if I was him, I would continue to play hard. If you play hard, they notice. If you don't play hard, they notice.

Do you find yourself playing with line combinations for the future?

Sure, but there's too many -- You could ask me this question, I have no idea how to tell you what the lineup is going to look like. But, I know some guys are doing their best to be in the lineup right now, but because of the offseason, we expect changes and we have kids and then free agency. I couldn't tell you. Do I look at it? Yes. Do I have it laid out pretty clearly? Absolutely. Do I know? No.

How much of Michigan hockey did you see the last few years?

Well, [Red Wings forward Dylan] Larkin, I watched Larkin play so Hyman was on his line. I watched him lots. I thought he should have been a Red Wing.

What's the biggest challenge for a young centre coming into the League?

Generating offence without cheating. So, how do you play well defensively so that you have the puck. The problem with this league is if you turn it over or don't play well defensively, they spend your whole shift in your zone and you change and the minuses add up. That's the hardest part about it. You learn over time, you can look at a lot of the best players in the League that are really good players, a lot of them are centres that started as wingers and had a tough time initially, especially on the plus/minus side of things. It's just being a work in progress and we're getting Willy as many reps as we can. We're putting him out there and he's got to find his way.

Is Tavares a good example for Nylander tonight?

Well, Tavares, it's like comparing someone to Lidstrom or Stamkos. Let's not get carried away. Nylander is Nylander. Over time he'll decide how much you guys talk about him or don't.

How do you approach the last stretch of the year for the young D? Is it a training camp of sorts?

Every day is an audition for all of us, let's not kid ourselves. Most of us, unless we're really, really, really good at our job, we're on a tryout every day. That's the National Hockey League for probably 400 players basically or 300 anyway. The rest, they're lucky. They don't have to think about hockey. They go home and do whatever they want, they're lucky, they're that good. The rest of us are grinding... I know what you're getting at but I don't got no answer for you because I don't know what's available. The best players get to play, that's what I do know.

What do you do as a coach in tonight's game?

That's a great point by you, we are playing tonight. We're playing the Islanders and we expect to win. We watched them last night, they were in Brooklyn, I imagine they got in late, I hope they got in really late. They played a good game last night, I thought they were really good. Defensively, offensively, on the power play, on the penalty kill. I thought they were good. I saw their game against New York, I thought they were good. They're a good team, they have good depth, they're going to be a challenge for us. Let's play hard. When the game is on the line in the third period, let's win the game.

What are you trying to see over the next month and a half?

I'm trying to win as many games as I can. We're doing the same thing as the guy who's trying to win the League, except he might be in a different situation. We're trying to win every day, we're trying to build our team and we're trying to build our product and the way we play. So, my mindset, is it different? Yes. It's more different in the off-days than it is on game day. I don't know if that makes any sense to you, but on the off-day you can thing about big-term picture and all that. On game days, let's win a game.

Have you seen any evidence of a sag in the room with the recent losses?

No, I talk more about this when I see you guys than any other time. So, I don't listen to your reports after so I don't have to hear it again. I guarantee you they do. So, they get more of it than I do. I think we've played very well here of late. I didn't like that we gave away the game -- I thought we gave away the game last game. I think we've played real well and real hard and I expect us to do the same. But, I also expect us to find a way to win the game and manage the clock and not turn the puck over and do good things the whole time. When you don't score as much you've got to play better without the puck.

Has the infusion of the young guys been good for you personally?

I haven't thought like that. I get optimism from when I watch the Marlies play. I get optimism from when I see our kids. I get optimism because I know what's going on. In saying all that, I knew what I was getting into. That doesn't mean you know what it's like to lose. Losing is hard, it's way harder than winning. In saying that though, here's a new day today. Let's do something about it.

1:30 PM: The Maple Leafs wrap up a four-game homestand on Wednesday night when they host the New York Islanders.

The Leafs are coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night. Leo Komarov, Brad Boyes and Zach Hyman scored for the Maple Leafs, while Garret Sparks stopped 24 in the shootout loss. Sparks will get the start on Wednesday against the Islanders.

The Islanders are playing the second leg of a back-to-back on Wednesday night after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Tuesday night. John Tavares and Anders Lee scored for the Islanders and Jarsolav Halak stopped 31 shots. Thomas Greiss is expected to get the start in Toronto on Wednesday night.

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

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