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Game Journal: Game 9 - Maple Leafs vs. Rangers

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

4:30 PM: Tonight's officials will be Francis Charron and Chris Rooney while David Brisebois and Kiel Murchison will handle the linesman duties. You can tune in on Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet 590 The FAN and by following the Leafs on Twitter.

Get set for tonight's game with some help from Paul Hendrick and Joe Bowen. Take a look...

4:15 PM: Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Rangers.

Toronto Maple Leafs
21 van Riemsdyk - 43 Kadri - 47 Komarov
26 Winnik - 42 Bozak - 19 Lupul
23 Matthias - 24 Holland - 15 Parenteau
40 Grabner - 56 Froese - 25 Clune
51 Gardiner - 3 Phaneuf
2 Hunwick - 44 Rielly
52 Marincin - 46 Polak
45 Bernier
34 Reimer

New York Rangers
61 Nash - 16 Brassard - 36 Zuccarello
20 Kreider - 21 Stepan - 19 Fast
24 Lindberg - 10 Miller - 13 Hayes
96 Etem - 28 Moore - 26 Stoll
27 McDonagh - 8 Klein
93 Yandle - 5 Girardi
18 Staal - 22 Boyle
30 Lundqvist
32 Raanta

3:30 PM: Leafs TV also caught up with Jake Gardiner -- who returns from injury tonight -- and Matt Hunwick following the morning skate. Take a look.

3:15 PM: Leafs centre Tyler Bozak returns to the lineup on Friday night after sitting out the last four games with an injury. Here's what he had to say about the game.

Leafs TV

Is this a good venue to get back at it?
Yeah, for sure. This is definitely one of my favourite rinks to play in and I was excited I could get back for this one. Hopefully we can get out there and have a good match. We had some good practices leading up to today and hopefully we can put it all together and have a good game tonight.

Is there a method to get things back on track to where this team wants to be offensively?
We've just got to get to the net more and cause more traffic. Goalies are too good in this league and it's tough to just beat them without anyone in front. We've got try to get some rebound goals and some tips and try to take away the goalie's eyes and get some of those dirty goals.

Is there any way to beat Lundqvist that stands out?
He's so big you just have to get guys in front of him, take away his eyes and hope for rebounds and stuff like that. He's probably going to save it if he sees it so you've got to get traffic for sure.

Are you 100 per cent now?
Yeah, I feel great. Everything is good and hopefully I can stay that way the rest of the year here. 

3:00 PM: Rich Clune gets set to make his Leafs debut tonight. Here's what he had to say about the game.

Leafs TV

On tonight's game:
The team wants to get a win. I want to be a part of this group, it's a hungry group. Any time you can come into Madison Square Garden to play a hockey game, it's a good day.

Do you bring that energy that's infectious to the whole group?
I don't want to disrespect any of the players that are here, I'm going to come in -- I think it's obvious I play a different style, I'm going to bring that style and just work towards the win.

What makes a good forecheck in the NHL?
You've got to skate, you can't be dumb, you've got to be able to read the play.

How important has your commitment to physical fitness been to getting you here?

I'm a big believer in working as hard as you can. Fortunately I got hooked up with some very good, bright minds over the years that have helped me get to where I am today. To be a pro athlete, you can't take anything for granted. Every year someone is coming in, maybe someone who has worked a little harder than you. I just want to be the hardest worker and I feel good today.

Even though you originally signed with the Marlies, was this the bigger internal plan?
Yeah, it started at the beginning of the summer, going out to LA and revamping my summer. I visualized this day for a long time. I'm ready for it.

What's the best part of a game day?
I like the music in the warmup... just have some fun. Madison Square Garden is obviously a very famous arena. I watched the Triple G (Gennady Golovkin) boxing match here a couple of weeks ago. Last time I was in Madison Square Garden with Nashville I was played well. I'm looking forward to going back out there again.

2:30 PM: Here's what Mike Babcock had to say after today's morning skate.

Leafs TV

What do the returns of Bozak and Gardiner mean to the team offensively?
I don't even know about offensively, it just makes you feel better. Bozak is an important guy for us and he's missed the last four and a half games, he can help us out that way. It gives us a much better one-two punch which is important. Gardiner skates the puck and moves the puck real good and he was playing well for us. I think any kind of boost is a positive thing for our group.

When you play Froese and Clune do you expect their compete level to be infectious?
Clune is a guy who we talked a lot about. We didn't have him on an NHL contract but we talked about him a lot in training camp, we thought he had a great training camp. He's a physical forechecker, he's an energy guy, he's a good pro, he does things right. We just felt that Froese, in the two games he's played for us, he's good in the circle, he seems to penalty kill real well, he's a competitive guy and he plays a simple game. That's what we're looking for out of him. They're two guys we feel can help us have an energy fourth line. Froese is going to penalty kill, Grabner penalty kill, so it gives us good, usable pieces on that line as well. That's why we've decided to make the move. Any time it's not going the way you want you're looking at how you can improve your team and make your team better.

Do you just need more offence from Boyes?
With Boyes today you could have said be someone else but the bottom line is, when I talk to guys I don't necessarily talk about goal scoring, I talk about are you winning your battles, are you shooting the puck, are you getting yourself in good spots to do that. When you look at a whole bunch of us, we feel that we can be better as a group. To me, when you look at our team, the thing that resonates with me is we've got to stay out of the box and we've got to do a way better job structurally not to give up goals.

What do you have to do to beat Lundqvist?
You've got to get someone to the net, you've got to shoot the puck and you've got to get a rebound and bury the thing. I always love coming here, it's a great spot to play, Lundqvist is always ready to go and he makes it hard on you. You know who you're playing against. I think that's a real challenge and a lot of fun. We play a good Ranger team here today and we're excited to play.

Are you jealous of a team like the Rangers who have a Lundqvist?
Bernier can do the same thing for us. There's no question about it in my opinion. He's just got to find his game. If you look at all the goalies in the National Hockey League, lots of goaltenders struggle early in the year. That's nothing new. You've just got to be confident in your ability and you've got to keep getting the opportunity to go out there. He's played a number of games, Bernie is going again tonight with a real good opportunity for us and we believe he has an opportunity to be real good for us.

11:45 AM: The Leafs are on the ice for their morning skate at Madison Square Garden.

11:30 AM: The Maple Leafs return to action tonight at Madison Square Garden where they face the New York Rangers.

The Leafs last played on Monday night where they were beaten by the Arizona Coyotes by a 3-2 score. A slow start dug a deep hole for the Leafs and a late push in the third couldn't over come the deficit. Shawn Matthias and Morgan Rielly had the goals for the Leafs while James Reimer made 20 saves in the loss. Jonathan Bernier will get the start tonight.

Friday will be the Rangers first game since Oct. 25 when they defeated the Calgary Flames by a 4-1 score. Antti Raanta was the first star of the game after making 22 saves, while the Rangers got goals from four different players -- Oscar Lindberg, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein and Derick Brassard -- to earn the win. Henrik Lundqvist is tonight's starting goaltender for New York.

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

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