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Game Journal: Game 77 - Maple Leafs vs. Sabres

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs



4:00 PM: Tonight's officials will be Trevor Hanson and Kendrick Nicholson. Shandor Alphonso and Brian Murphy will be the linesmen. Those looking to tune in can watch on TSN 4, listen on Sportsnet 590 the FAN and follow the Leafs on Twitter.

Paul Hendrick and Joe Bowen preview tonight's game below.




3:30 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Sabres...

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

18 Michalek - 43 Kadri - 40 Grabner

38 Greening - 39 Nylander - 15 Parenteau

46 Lindberg - 42 Bozak - 37 Kapanen

28 Boyes - 56 Froese - 23 Laich

Defence

52 Marincin - 44 Rielly

51 Gardiner - 20 Corrado

48 Campbell - 29 Brennan

Goaltenders

31 Sparks

45 Bernier

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

28 Girgensons - 90 O'Reilly - 52 Fasching

44 Deslauriers - 15 Eichel - 23 Reinhart

82 Foligno - 22 Larsson - 12 Gionta

19 O'Reilly - 17 Legwand - 26 Moulson

Defence

4 Gorges - 55 Ristolainen

29 McCabe - 47 Bogosian

3 Pysyk - 34 Nelson

Goaltenders

31 Johnson

50 Lieuwen



3:15 PM:
Leafs TV caught up with TJ Brennan ahead of Thursday's game. Here's what he had to say...

Can you put being part of this Marlies migration into perspective for us?

It's pretty simple, any time you get a chance to play in the NHL it's an honour and you just try and enjoy every moment of it. We've had a great year with the Marlies so far and it seems like a lot of guys have deserved the opportunities they've gotten up here with the Leafs and taken full advantage of it. I've been a believer since day one that we have a great group of guys here and I think we've shown that so far. Obviously we have a long way to go with the playoffs soon but it's been a real growing year and a real fun and learning year. For myself, just taking it one day at a time here and keep trying to learn and improve and see if I have something to add to the table in this organization. I just want to take advantage and enjoy every moment here.

How important has Campbell been to the young Marlies players?

Yeah, Soupy has been unbelievable. He's our captain and I think that says it all there. He's done a phenomenal job this year leading by example and obviously adding offensively too. It's been a pleasure playing on his team finally, I've been playing against him for the past few years. He's always been a pain, but that old saying, you hate 'em when he's on the other team and you love him when he's on your team. It's nice to have him on our side. He's done a great job all year. Some of the veteran guys -- Arcobello, Clune, Soupy -- they've done a great job of leading and, for myself, you've just got to sit back and be quiet. They do such a good job so I don't really need to do anything. It's nice. When you've got the group of guys we have, especially the young talent we have, it makes your job a little easier and definitely way more fun to come to the rink every day. We've done a good job creating that environment and it's exciting just getting ready for the playoffs now.



3:00 PM:
Toronto Marlies captain Andrew Campbell was recalled by the Maple Leafs this morning ahead of their game in Buffalo. Here's what he had to say...

Leafs TV

Is this hard work paying off when you look at the season the team has had down there?

I appreciate that. It's been a fun year down there. Obviously there's been a ton of team success. With team success comes individual success so it's been a fun year all around and hopefully it can continue into the playoffs down there.

What did management ask of you when you were signed in terms of leadership?

I think they expected me to come in and be a good mentor for the young players. There's so many high end prospects in this organization, they're the future of this team. I was a captain before in the American League so I that on my resume and I had a relationship with Kyle Dubas for a while so he knows what I'm about and I knew what I was coming into.

What does it mean to play in the NHL?

It means everything, especially here in Toronto. I grew up an hour down the road in Caledonia so I grew up a Leafs fan and everything was about playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, it wasn't necessarily playing in the NHL, it was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. That makes this even more special tonight for sure.

What are you feeling right now?

A little bit of everything. I've obviously played in the League before so I'm not nervous as I was for my first game but playing the first one in the Blue and White, I'm definitely a little more nervous than usual.

Who was your favourite player growing up?

I was a big Dougie [Gilmour] fan and then Mats Sundin after that.

Is there consistency in playing for Mike Babcock and Dave Tippett and what they demand of you?

For sure. Even with Darryl Sutter before, they're all three very demanding coaches who you've got to move your feet, you've got to move the puck and if you don't they'll let you know about it, which is a good thing.



2:45 PM:
Tobias Lindberg is slated to make his NHL debut tonight. Here's what he had to say ahead of the game in Buffalo...

Leafs TV

What was your reaction when you got the call?

Very excited, happy, it was a coincidence too that my family is here from Sweden so I couldn't be happier.

What are you feeling right now?

Very nervous, we were playing soccer before and I couldn't even hit the ball because I was so nervous but it felt good to go on the ice and see the guys. They're just normal people. I'm looking forward to having fun tonight.

With the number of Swedes on the team, how has the adjustment been for you since coming over in the trade?

The first guys I met were Viktor Loov and Willy. They took great care of me, showed me around and told me if I needed something they'd take care of me. It's been nice having some Swedes here.

How important was it to go to Oshawa and win a championship to help your integration into North America?

I couldn't have done it without DJ [Smith]'s help. He's been such a great influence in my hockey career and I have everything to thank him.

Did DJ have anything to say to you today?

Yeah, he's been on me ever since I got here and just telling me what to do and stuff like that. He's probably going to yell at me a couple of times tonight.

Who's here from your family?

I've got nine people here. Two sisters, Mom and Grandmother, Grandfather, Aunt and her sons... They were going to see my game against Grand Rapids at home on Saturday but this is a little bit better... They're on their flight to Toronto right now so [they don't have to change their plans] too much. They're just going to have a rental car and drive down to Buffalo tonight... I think they'll manage.

Who's going to be more nervous, your family or you?

Probably my mom.

How good has the Marlies situation been with all of you guys getting a chance to participate at this level?

It's been amazing. We really have a great team down there and a great system and coach that we believe in. Hopefully after this we'll have a great and long playoff run.



2:30 PM:
Kasperi Kapanen was recalled on Thursday prior to the Leafs' game against the Sabres. Here's what he had to say after the morning skate...

Leafs TV

On the recall:

It's a great feeling. I have been struggling a little bit down there but I think my compete level has still been good after I got sent down. I'm just really excited to be here again and show everybody what I can do. Hopefully it'll be a good one tonight.

What did you learn from the first stint up here?

I know that if you don't compete you're not going to play and that's something I'm going to try to focus on today. Just battle for every puck I can and just enjoy all the games I'm going to be playing here. Hopefully there will be a couple more but, like I said, I'm just focusing on this game and trying to have a good one.

Has the beauty of the organization been the consistency between the big club and Sheldon Keefe?

Yeah, for sure. I think Sheldon is doing a really good job down there and every time we come up here we feel prepared. I don't know what to say to you guys right now but I'm really excited to be here again and see you guys. Like I said, I just want to play a good game today and leave a good last impression for the season.

To put things in perspective, you're not 20 yet?

I'm 19, yeah. I turn 20 in July.

Was there a message from the coaches when you were recalled?

We haven't talked about anything like that yet but I'm sure we'll have some conversations in the last part of the next couple of days.



2:15 PM:
Here's what Leafs head coach Mike Babcock had to say ahead of Thursday's game...

Leafs TV

Opening Remarks:

So, everyone saw the player transactions we made. It gives us a good chance to look at Lindberg, I haven't seen him before, and to talk to Kapanen again about his game and then reward two of our veterans in the American Hockey League who have done a real good job with our kids. Froese is back in the lineup so those are the changes that we've made.

How excited do you get for the future when you look at the number of kids you've been able to call up who can play?

Well, for sure, but I think the message to the young guys is not everyone gets to play and so you better have an NHL summer. The other thing is you're set up for a real good run in the American Hockey League and they don't give away titles, you've got to earn them. There's an opportunity there. Lindberg, the first thing you notice is how big he is because we don't have a lot of those guys. A big, heavy body and looks like he can skate straight ahead. Now, you've got to be able to work every day to play in the National Hockey League and people don't think that's a skill but I believe work ethic, the ability to grind every day, the mental toughness is a huge skill in life for success. If you want to play in the NHL and you want to be an important player on a team you have to have that. No one gives it to you, you've got to do it. That's the challenge for these kids.

What do you want to see from Kapanen as he gets another chance?

He's got to compete. You've got to get on the inside, you've got to decide what kind of player you want to be one day in the League. There's very few guys that get to be danglers and distributors. The rest of us have got to go to work every single day and he's going to be one of those guys so he's got to put his work boots on.

Is the prospect pool wider and bigger and better than you thought it was?

Yeah, but in fairness, when you're in one organization you know what's going on in that organization. Even the scouts don't know until the players arrive in the National Hockey League what they're going to do, because you can be a great American Hockey League player and not be effective in the National Hockey League. As much as we'd like to know, the other thing is let's not get too carried away. It's the time of year -- some teams, I don't know if you watched Philly last night, they're digging in, they're competing, they're after it. They're trying to get in the playoffs. Other teams are battling for their life, holding on to be in the playoffs, and some teams have run away with the League. We're in a much different position than that and so we can't get ahead of ourselves. We have to understand the process we're in... [Our prospects] are trying hard, they look like they're real hockey players. But, when you do it for four and five years in a row, we'll say they are.

Are you trying to create a culture of competition for jobs amongst the young players?

I sure hope we have.

How much of sending the guys back is to re-integrate them into the Marlies system?

Well that was part of it but also even though we don't share it with you guys every day, we've had a plan right from the get-go. Willy will be in the same boat here as soon as we get another centre, as soon as Holly is in we'll get Willy and get him down with the group too. Some got to stay longer than we thought just because of the injury situation we're under.

Is there any pressure on DJ Smith with Lindberg making his debut?

I would say none. I don't think there's any pressure on anybody that way except on the kid to see -- he's a two or three year -- I don't know if he's a two-year Marlie or a three-year Marlie, that's up to the kid. I just know he's big, he skates straight line pretty good and he shoots the puck pretty good.

1:30 PM: The Maple Leafs return to action on Thursday night when they visit the Buffalo Sabres.

The Leafs are coming off a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. Nazem Kadri led the way with a hat trick, while Michael Grabner and P-A Parenteau recorded single tallies. Jonathan Bernier stopped 32 shots in the win. Garret Sparks is expected to get the start tonight.

The Sabres last played on Tuesday night and took a 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Matt Moulson, Ryan O'Reilly, Jake McCabe and Zach Bogosian scored for the Sabres, while Chad Johnson made 42 saves in the loss. He is expected to start against the Leafs on Thursday night.

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

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