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Game Journal: Game 69 - Lightning vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

4:00 PM: Tonight's officials will be Eric Furlatt and Mike Leggo. Vaughan Rody and Kiel Murchison will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in can watch tonight's game on TSN 4, listen on TSN 1050 and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

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

Toronto Maple Leafs

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

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

45 Bernier
31 Sparks

Tampa Bay Lightning

17 Killorn - 91 Stamkos - 86 Kucherov
18 Palat - 9 Johnson - 90 Namestnikov
23 Brown - 11 Boyle - 24 Callahan
46 Blunden - 81 Marchessault - 22 Condra

6 Stralman - 77 Hedman
5 Garrison - 62 Sustr
25 Carle - 89 Nesterov

88 Vasilevskiy
30 Bishop

12:45 PM: Leafs TV spoke with forward Ben Smith on Tuesday morning. Here's what he had to say.

Leafs TV

How has it been settling in and knowing where you stand with the club now?

I think it's hard to ever really tell where you stand, things can change pretty quickly but it's been eight games I think and I'm feeling more comfortable every game. That's important and, just trying to show what I can do, trying to help this team win. I think winning two of the last three games has been really important for us, trying to get that winning feeling back in this room. We want to use that as motivation going forward.

On building on his role on the team particularly on the penalty kill:

Yeah, you have to build on it. As I said, I've never really felt safe in this league so trying to improve every game, build on what I've been doing and trying to earn more ice time. That's the main thing. You want to be out there making the difference whether it's blocking shots, winning faceoffs, scoring goals, killing penalties. Whatever it is, you want to try and bring that every night.

What was the difference from Saturday to Sunday and the jump in the team?

Well we got the lead, that was important. Not giving up that first goal early like we did on Saturday, that always hurts when you're coming from behind against -- in this league it's always tough so to get that first goal in the second and to be able to play with a lead, and even coming out strong like that, we felt like we were playing well and we were jumping there at the beginning of the game. We needed that feeling throughout the lineup, it's big for your club and to get the lead always helps.

How do you contain Stamkos on the power play?

If you can win faceoffs and you can prevent them from getting set, that's the main thing. Once they're in their set, they're hard to stop and he's always a threat there with that one-timer. Trying to clear the puck 200 feet and also getting clears off their breakout to try and prevent them from getting set up.

12:30 PM: Here's what Nazem Kadri had to say following Tuesday's morning skate.

Leafs TV

On bouncing back in Detroit after the loss in Ottawa:

We wanted to respond, obviously we didn't have our greatest night in Ottawa. That's the good thing about playing in the NHL, you get to redeem yourself on a daily basis. I think we just showed a lot of heart sticking in that game. I think we were a bit conservative in the third period, but at the end of the day Bernie made some big saves and we were able to come out with two points.

On saving a goal in Detroit:

I think it originally started with me, I tried to make a pass in the middle and it got deflected and they had an opportunity. I tried to get back as quick as I could. I was scrambling in the crease there with Bernie a little bit, I figured it would be tougher to beat two guys -- better than one. I just did my best to get in the way.

Does going head-to-head with Detroit prepare you for challenges going forward?

It does, yeah. They're definitely one of the strongest up the middle, they thrive through the middle of the ice. Obviously with those two players in Zetterberg and Datsyuk, it helps them out a ton and those are guys that compete on a shiftly basis. They're tough to compete with but at the end of the day we made it happen and there's always a different challenge that lays ahead.

What do you see in the maturation of the blueline?

It's experience, the more games they get the more comfortable they're going to be. I think Valiev has come in and done a great job as well, he seems really poised with the puck and can make plays. Like I said, the more games you get under your belt, the better you feel and the more you feel like you can play in this league on a regular basis. They've done a great job and obviously being consistent is the number one thing.

12:15 PM:
Leafs TV caught up with Morgan Rielly on Tuesday morning. Here's what he had to say ahead of facing the Lightning.

Leafs TV

How did you feel about the blueline's response in Detroit after Saturday's game?

I think we're happy with it. As a D corps, I think we take a lot of responsibility on the way the game goes and I think that as you get older and you play more games you mature almost every night. Bouncing back, having a good night in Detroit was big for us and we're looking forward to trying to do it again tonight.

What's it like playing 31 minutes?

It's good and bad, you get a little tired by the end but you like being involved in the game, you like getting into a rhythm. You like to be out there. At the same time you've got to manage it. You don't have to change your game but you've got to be able to pick your spots. There's lots of guys in this League that do that almost every night. It's all part of it, learning the game and trying to get better.

Do you feel it more on a day like yesterday vs. if you have a lighter workload?

No, I notice it more by the end of the game and that trip home, you can feel it in the legs when you're sitting on the plane but that's all part of it. Growing up you've got to learn how to deal with it and how to recover properly.

What was the biggest difference from Saturday to Sunday with the forwards and D working together?

I think less turnovers. We were able to manage the puck. Detroit is one of those teams that can really turn and burn, that's how they play, that's how they've played for a long time with all those top end guys like Datsyuk. That's what they've been doing their whole career, they've been able to capitalize on turnovers, get going the other way and create odd man rushes. If you're able to limit that you give yourself a chance.

Is confidence the biggest difference in Marincin's game the last few weeks?

Marty's been playing great, whether it's confidence or more ice time or just being comfortable, I think that he's really grown a lot over the past few months and he's really taken advantage of the opportunity he has had. He's playing really well. It's been fun to watch and his off-ice personality has changed along with his on-ice and it's been nice to see.

12:00 PM:
Here's what Mike Babcock had to say ahead of Tuesday's game against the Lightning.

Leafs TV

How important is it for Bernier to get back in and feel good about himself?

I think it's important. You want to do it again, right? The guys did a real good job for Bernie and in the end he made some real good saves for us. He made a real good save for us in the first and he made some down the stretch, that's got to make him feel good. He had a day off now, enjoy it and then get to work here this morning and get ready. Tampa is a really good team.

Would a strong finish to this season for Bernier or any of your players be good for next season?

Well obviously I think it's as much as your playing for our team, but part of it, you're also playing to look after yourself. When you do good things everyone notices.

What have you learned about Martin Marincin and seeing him in a bigger role?

It's a real good question. Marty has gained confidence and when you're not playing a lot of minutes -- you just look at Valiev, he's been in two games and hardly got out there. It's hard to get rhythm when you don't get out there. Marty was probably -- I don't know if he was around 12 or 13 minutes most of the year and the other guys were going out first, Dion and Polak went out penalty killing before. It started when he got out penalty killing all the time, he's got a good stick and good hockey sense and then he's started to gain some confidence and suddenly you notice he's a really good skater. He's still got to work on his shot but he can pass the puck and he's got good hockey sense. He's a thin guy so he's got to work extra hard on his body, he needs an NHL summer. One where you actually commit to being in the League and want to be a real good player and put some meat on your bones and then he's in a position to be a really good player in the League. He has really come and that's good for him.

Has the departure of Phaneuf allowed Gardiner and Rielly to step up for the team?

The real good players, if you're really a talented guy, you step up no matter what. You just go by people and the rest of us need opportunity and sometimes it takes two or three teams. You see that all the time. Stralman is going to play tonight, on a number of teams he's a real good player. Why is it that you don't get your confidence soon enough? Everyone thinks the coach decides who goes on the ice but that doesn't have anything to do with it. The players decide who goes on the ice by how they play.

How comfortable are you with the young players called up from the AHL on this team?

They played down there lots, Willy could have easily been on the team from training camp, so could have Brownie [Connor Brown]. They could have been on the team right from the get-go and we chose not to do that for a number of reasons. Number one is you don't have as much time to work with Bozak and Kadri if you're talking to Nylander and Hyman and Soshnikov and those guys. When you're coming into a new program I think it's important you get the players that are leading the way playing the way a Leaf should play and then when you're done with that you can help the other guys more. I think it's been real good for those kids. Obviously they're very effective players, they play with much more speed than the group we had and, I mean, all you've got to do is look at the good teams in the League and how fast they are.

Is there any question Nylander will be here the rest of the season?

Not from me, I haven't sat down with Lou and said, 'Hey Lou what are we doing with this guy?' To me the idea was to bring him up to keep him up. I think the same goes with the other guys. If they can show they can play, let's play them.

Does Tampa look any different to you this year than they did this time last year?

No, I think they're hitting their groove. I think they're 10-2-1 in their last 13 or whatever, they're going. They had some injuries and it took them a while to hit their stride but that's what often happens with teams that go to the Cup final. Now here's another opportunity for them to get going. I think Steve [Yzerman] has done a real good job there, obviously with their draft picks but also with free agency. They've got good players. They've got a big back end who can move, they've got good goaltending with huge size and they've got great speed up front and guys that can score. They're going to be a handful in the playoffs for sure and they want to get healthy obviously and hit their stride going in.

What do you think of Ondrej Palat as a player?

I like his story, I like where he was drafted, I like that people said he couldn't skate, I like the fact that he's a gifted, gifted player that plays every night. He competes like crazy, he steals pucks, he plays in all situations and knows how to play. It just goes to show you if you've got hockey sense and you compete real hard you can find your way. Scouts and coaches and all that, we all make mistakes and he's a guy who, if I'm not mistaken, it was Guy Boucher who said to them at the draft, 'Draft this guy, draft this guy,' and they finally did and he's a real good player for them. He's a good hockey player.

11:30 PM: The Maple Leafs kick off a stretch of six straight at home tonight when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs are coming off of a 1-0 win in Detroit on Sunday night. Michael Grabner had the lone Leafs goal, while Jonathan Bernier made 38 stops to earn the shutout win. Bernier will get the start in goal once again on Tuesday night.

The Lightning are also coming off of a shutout win on Sunday as they defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets by a 4-0 score. Steven Stamkos scored a pair while Vladislav Namestnikov and Ondrej Palat added single tallies to seal the win. Ben Bishop made 37 saves to earn his shutout win. Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to start in Toronto on Tuesday night.

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

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