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Game Journal: Game 73 - Ducks vs. Maple Leafs

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs



2:35 PM: Tonight's officials will be Steve Kozari and Chris Lee. David Brisebois and Andy McElman will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in to tonight's game can watch on Sportsnet Ontario, listen on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

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


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

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

18 Michalek - 43 Kadri - 40 Grabner

11 Hyman - 39 Nylander - 15 Parenteau

32 Leivo - 42 Bozak - 16 Brown

38 Greening - 23 Laich - 26 Smith

Defence

52 Marincin - 44 Rielly

51 Gardiner - 8 Carrick

29 Valiev - 20 Corrado

Goaltenders

31 Sparks

45 Bernier

Anaheim Ducks

Forwards

11 Pirri - 15 Getzlaf - 10 Perry

88 McGinn - 67 Rakell - 25 Santorelli

7 Cogliano - 22 Horcoff - 33 Silfverberg

37 Ritchie - 44 Thompson - 16 Garbutt

Defence

4 Fowler - 2 Bieksa

47 Lindholm - 42 Manson

5 Holzer - 3 Stoner

Goaltenders

31 Andersen

36 Gibson



2:15 PM:
Here's what William Nylander had to say following Thursday's morning skate...

Leafs TV

Do you look forward to matchups like tonight?

Of course, it's going to be a challenge. They're great players and they're strong through the middle, Anaheim. It's going to be a challenge. It's going to be fun.

Is it a good opportunity to gauge your skill and strength?

I think it's more of a learning process to go up against the big centremen for the other team. It's going to be a fun game and I've just got to be ready to play against them.

Do you ever try to steal things from the best players you're playing against?

Yeah, of course. You're always trying to look at the other players and learn from them. A lot of players in this league are great players and you just try to pick up everything and sort of be like a sponge and learn from other guys.

Is there any detail you've taken in to your game since you've been up here?

Just trying to look at guys and the way they play without the puck. Just small, small things that I don't think other people look at too much.

Have you played against anybody yet and thought,'Wow, he's really good'?

Datsyuk, Stamkos, Zetterberg, guys like that. They're pretty good players and you're like, 'Woah.'

Do you ever talk to a veteran like Tyler Bozak or even your Dad about how to have success up the middle?

Of course, it's always important to ask. They've been around and they know the way the game has been played. If you ask you're always learning. They've been here so you're always learning something.

What has been your biggest progress from your first training camp to now?

Everything, I think you try to improve as a player. From the first training camp, confidence is also a key factor. The more confidence you have the more you can play your game. That's probably one of the biggest factors.



2:00 PM:
Leafs TV caught up with Milan Michalek following Thursday's skate. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

Are you feeling a great level of comfort now in Toronto?

Yeah, I feel a little better and especially my skating. My skating is better, my legs feel better and getting comfortable with the team and the new system. Hopefully it's going to get better.

What's it like playing with different teammates game-in, game-out?

It's fine. I was used to it. It doesn't really matter who you play with, you have one system and you play it and it doesn't matter who you are with. We have so much talent it doesn't matter who you play with here now. It's don't injure yourself, work hard and it'll make good results.

How much more difficult does forechecking get against a big team like Anaheim?

It's going to be different and tougher, they play a similar style to us. They hold it a lot so you can really get in on the forecheck but you have to get through it and take their game and make it ours.

On the young players going up against the big Anaheim centres:

It'll be [a good test] for sure, they're [some] of the best players in the League and so it's going to be great to play against them and hopefully we're going to have a good result tonight.



1:45 PM:
Garret Sparks is slated to get the start for the Leafs tonight. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

How do you feel about the state of your game right now?

I'm not -- I'm happy with it, but it can always be better so there's things I continue to work on everyday and I'm sure over time those things will start to show in my game a little bit more. It's a continual learning process at this point.

Do you ever pinch yourself over where you were this time last year vs. now?

Yeah, obviously last year we were just trying to climb into a playoff spot with Orlando and it's definitely a much different feeling this time of the year this time around. It's pretty cool, though. Pretty big jump.

Do you rely on tape before you go up against teams you're not familiar with?

It's another game where there's a unique set of challenges. I try to prepare for the opponent but I also try to stay true to my game with what I do and do what makes me successful.

How much more compacted are you compared to where you were a couple of years ago?

I think I've come a long way just in my understanding of what I'm trying to accomplish in net and what every move in net is aimed towards accomplishing. I feel like I'm a more focused goalie now and I know what works for me and what doesn't and what are the things I need to do on a day-to-day basis to get better and what things I try to avoid.



1:30 PM:
Here's what Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say following Thursday's morning skate...

Leafs TV

What advantage does a kid like Nylander have when he grows up around NHL dressing rooms?

I think you get a lot. You grow up in the game, you understand what it takes, you understand how good the players are. I think it leads to having hockey sense because you just understand the game. It sets you up on the fast track. Now, you've still got to do something with it and talent is great if you do something with it, if you work with it. The other thing I guess you develop is a passion, a love for the game. It's a pretty good way to make a living if you can do it.

What does holding opponents to less than 30 shots a game tell you about how the team has adapted to the structure?

I think it's good, obviously we're going to have our hands full tonight. We've had that a lot of times with real good teams, they make it hard for you. Obviously it's a pretty simple game. If you play in the offensive zone and don't give them any shots you've got a chance to win. The more you have the puck, the more you play in the offensive zone, the less you've got to count on playing defence and handling bodies like they'll have tonight. That's got to be a big part of our game.

Will you be judging Nylander tonight by evaluating how he does against the bigger players?

I think what you do is who has the puck when he's out there. It's hard being an offensive player if they won't let you have the puck. Kesler's the best faceoff guy in the League and so when you look at all of their clips, a lot of it starts by him winning the draw. Their penalty kill is number one in the League, he wins the draw and they shoot it down the ice. He has added a component and their line is -- everyone would think Getzlaf and Perry, Silfverberg is six (goals) and two (assists) in his last five. He's on fire. That line is not only checking but creating offence. Then you go to the Rakell kid in the three-hole. They're set up pretty good and their back end can move and they've got good goaltending. They've got a good hockey club. They've been building it for a while and it looks like a real team.

On Mats Sundin having a ceremonial stall in the Leafs room today:

Obviously I came from Detroit and we did it in Detroit, so I made the suggestions at the start of the year. I don't know the rotation. Obviously if a guy is around his stall is up. I told Leivo to move into that stall and put Mats on the end so he could guard the door for us tonight. I think when you have a good tradition and the more hall-of-famers you have and the more winning you've done over time, I think that's something that's special about Original Six teams.

1:00 PM: The Maple Leafs return to action on Thursday night when they host the Anaheim Ducks at Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs are coming off of a 5-2 win on Monday night over the Calgary Flames. The Leafs got goals from P-A Parenteau, Zach Hyman, William Nylander, Colin Greening and Josh Leivo in the win. Jonathan Bernier made 23 stops to earn the win. Garret Sparks will get the start on Thursday night with Bernier not 100 per cent following Monday's game. Bernier will back up Sparks.

The Ducks last played on Tuesday night and lost a 4-3 game in Montreal to the Canadiens. Jakob Silfverberg scored a pair while Corey Perry chipped in with a goal in the loss. John Gibson stopped 19 of 23 shots in the loss. Frederik Andersen will start in goal against the Leafs on Thursday night.

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

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