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Game Journal: Game 71 - Sabres vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

4:00 PM: Tonight's officials will be Kyle Rehman and Kevin Pollock. Brad Kovachik and Greg Devorski 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 previews tonight's game below.

2:15 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Sabres.

Toronto Maple Leafs


41 Soshnikov - 43 Kadri - 40 Grabner

15 Parenteau - 39 Nylander - 11 Hyman

38 Greening - 26 Smith - 18 Michalek

32 Leivo - 54 Gauthier - 16 Brown


44 Rielly - 52 Marincin

51 Gardiner - 8 Carrick

29 Valiev - 20 Corrado


31 Sparks

45 Bernier

Buffalo Sabres


9 Kane - 90 R. O'Reilly - 44 Deslauriers

28 Girgensons - 15 Eichel - 23 Reinhart

82 Foligno - 22 Larsson - 12 Gionta

19 C. O'Reilly - 17 Legwand - 26 Moulson


4 Gorges - 55 Ristolainen

29 McCabe - 47 Bogosian

3 Pysyk - 5 Ruhwedel


31 Johnson

50 Lieuwen

2:00 PM:
Garret Sparks is slated to get the start tonight. Here's what he had to say on Saturday morning...

Is this dressing room getting more familiar each day?

Yeah, it's kind of funny because every time I feel like I round a corner I'm running into another Marlies guy and ones that haven't been here before. It's exciting to get as many kids into these games as possible and see what they have and see how they can compete at this level.

What have you seen from Gauthier this season?

He takes care of the puck in his own end and the offensive zone and he works teams into the ground. He's a big body out there, a great force on the penalty kill and he's just a very steady, steady player and sometimes you need that.

What do you know about Gauthier as a person?

He's a very hungry man usually. He loves Chipotle, he loves puzzles, he loves Roller Coaster Tycoon. Overall he's a very kind-hearted soul and he's a great addition to any locker room.

Is he one of the more lovable guys in the dressing room?

Yeah, he doesn't know it but he's got a certain character to him. You guys have probably picked up on the way he talks and it's just good for a laugh, he's always good for a laugh.

What's the energy like in the room?

I think it's just a real mixed back right now. There's a lot of guys who didn't start the season here and have found their way here. I think that we're all coming together as a team over the last couple of games here and we're trying to win games and make it hard on teams that are trying to make a push for the playoffs. I think we have a good group of guys here and we're having a lot of fun. Hopefully we can keep winning some games here.

1:45 PM:
Frederik Gauthier is set to make his NHL debut on Saturday night. Here's what he had to say ahead of the game...

When did you get the call and how did it happen?

I just got the call last night, yesterday afternoon. They just called me to say I was practicing this morning so I was pretty exciting... I called my mom, called my dad and they were pretty happy too.

With equipment adjustments and work with Barb Underhill, has a lot of science gone into improving your skating?

A little bit, I think we adjusted my skates and then working with her helped me a lot, helped my skating and it has paid off so far.

On getting in tonight:

Yeah for sure, I think every guy wants to have a game or try. I've been here, did the morning skate, pretty happy, pretty excited. We'll see.

What kind of impact do you think you can have at this level?

Just try to do my game like I've played down there, what go me up here. Play hard in the corner, play good D zone and try to create offensively too.

Do you take a lot of pride in the defensive side of the game?

I think I do, I think defensively I read the play well so I'm trying to keep doing it.

Have you talked to the coach about the role you'll have up here?

Not really, no. I haven't talked to the coach about that. Whatever I have to do I need to do it and I'm just going to play my game.

Does it make it easier to come up with all the familiar faces?

Yeah, maybe, I think when I walked in I saw a few guys I was with a few weeks ago so it's probably easier to blend in and it was nice.

What does it mean to you to play in the NHL?

It means a lot, I think every guy wants to play in the NHL. I think that's a goal for me and I'm going to do my best and see what happens after that.

What has made the Marlies such a good environment this season?

I think the way management worked it out, I think all the guys were a good, young group of guys that were playing well. The coaching staff, management, everybody helped us get better and hopefully get to the NHL.

1:30 PM:
Here's what Mike Babcock had to say following Saturday's morning skate...

What do you know about Gauthier?

Every time I looked at him today he was 6-foot-5 so I liked that... I shook his hand today and, I mean I've done it in the past, but he's a great, big man obviously. The question is always going to be pace, you've got to get up and down the rink. Every coach that coaches him plays him all the time so that must mean he's good defensively. He's got a hockey IQ. You don't take defensive minutes for the World Junior team, faceoffs like you do in junior and then do it in the Marlies unless you've got some sort of hockey sense. We've got an opportunity to watch him, he's a full year away from being knocking on the door on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean he can't change your mind quick. Like I said, every time I look at him he's still 6-foot-5 so that's a good thing.

Is the opportunity he has here long term a byproduct of his size?

Well I think so, but also Lindberg down there is a real big body, a heavy guy who shoots the puck good. He's a kid, he's just 20, he's a kid that we think has a chance. We have a draft coming up here and there's always free agency. To me, let's overload with hockey sense and skill and speed and we'll fill the rest in. Even two positions, we need centres, we need D. We're all aware of that but we need the best players.

In regular season play do you think you've ever coached a team this young?

I haven't coached a team this young since junior, or since college. I haven't coached a team this young in the American League, I had way older veterans. In saying all that I coached junior for eight years, college for three or four and I loved every minute of it. In the American League, developing kids. It's great. Obviously, three years from now we don't have to be doing this but right now this is what we're doing and it's a lot of fun.

What changes when you're coaching a lineup this young?

I think what happens with kids is you really coach the kids and spend a lot of time on video and show them tons of stuff. The veterans, once they've got it you leave them alone more. You still talk to them but you leave them alone. I've learned this from having my own kids, it's a line Lou uses better than me but, good news or bad news, they're both news. They're both better than no news. When people don't talk you have to think that's the hardest thing for people so you do your best just to talk to them and make sure they know where they stand.

Is behind the bench a different experience with younger players?

For sure, you need five or six hands when you change lines, you need a hand on every sweater just so they know -- it's just different that way. I think part of the reason it's different is they're not quite as calm, you're not quite as calm and everything is more erratic off the bench for sure. Sometimes they go fast and they don't always go to the right spots, but they go fast. You've just got to figure that out over time. Our guys have played, they've played hard. We've been in the games, we've given ourselves a chance. We're not as good -- I think we're getting just as many chances, we're not as good offensively. We want to shoot the pill. Some of these guys can so over time they'll learn how to shoot it at this level.

Is there an update on the players who are out?

I think Leo should be ready to go. Brooks Laich has a personal leave for a couple of days here. [Holland] I don't know, that's more day-to-day to 10 maybe. [Brad Boyes] he should be soon and so should Bozak. Bozak should be, I don't know if he's next game but he should be right there. I didn't talk to the coaches since he skated today but those guys are making progress.

Do you think there'll be a comfort factor for Gauthier on his line?

Well that's what I did, I put three veteran guys together and then those three kids together. I'm not promising anything after warmup if that's how it's going to be but whoever plays good is going to play more.

1:00 PM: The Maple Leafs return to action on Saturday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

The Leafs are coming off of a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. Morgan Rielly had the lone Leafs goal while Jonathan Bernier stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced in the loss. Garret Sparks will get the start for the Leafs on Saturday.

The Sabres played the Ottawa Senators on Friday night and earned a 3-1 win. Sam Reinhart, Nicolas Deslauriers and Zach Bogosian had the Sabres goals. Chad Johnson made 32 saves in the win. He is expected to get the start in Toronto as well.

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

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