With the Maple Leafs winning three of their last four games, it was a spirited practice Wednesday as the Leafs get set to play back-to-back games this weekend against Buffalo and Ottawa.
There were quite a few important things to come out of practice.PHANEUF, GIGUERE & ARMSTRONG INJURY UPDATE
Prior to practice, the Leafs three injured players skated on their own.
J.S. Giguere was back on skates for the first time since his suffering his groin injury against Nashville on November 16th. Colby Armstrong
was able to handle the puck for the first time since he underwent surgery on his finger back in later October.Dion Phaneuf
skated for 15 minutes in a track suit but he remains a ways away from returning to the lineup. Watch Phaneuf skating here
Following practice, head coach Ron Wilson updated the status of Giguere and Armstrong.
“Giguere is still a week or so away,” Wilson said. “Today was the first day he was on the ice, he didn’t really take any shots, he will gradually work his way back in.”
“Colby is getting closer but he still needs clearance from the doctor who did the surgery,” Wilson said.
“Maybe next weekend he might be ready, but he still has to get his hand and forearm stronger.”AULIE & GUNNARSSON
One of the bright spots over the last three games in particular has been the play of the third defensive pairing of Carl Gunnarsson
and Keith Aulie.
“He plays a simple game, a good passer and if he doesn’t have a pass he chips it off the boards,” Gunnarsson said of his partner. “He’s not going to make any big mistakes and I love that. He’s very solid defensively.”
It has been quite the experience for Aulie. He got to play in a Leafs/Canadiens game in Montreal for the first time.
“It was a rush for sure,” Aulie said. “That’s a pretty amazing place to play, a lot of atmosphere, a lot of history in there to play that first game there was a pretty cool experience.”
Having two youngsters learning the ropes in the NHL is never easy but Aulie and Gunnarsson have played extremely well and they enjoy being paired together.
“We communicate well off the ice and the on ice as well. We go out there with our roles defined every game and we know what we’re going to do,” Aulie said.
Following the two games this weekend, you can be pretty sure that you will find Aulie and the other three players from Saskatchewan (Armstrong, Tyler Bozak
and Luke Schenn
) watching the Grey Cup.
When asked what he thought the score might be, he simply said:
“I don’t care to be honest as long as Saskatchewan gets the win!”WINNING ON THE ROAD
The Maple Leafs have struggled winning away from Air Canada Centre. They have lost their past six straight road games and their record of 2-5-1 is the worst in the NHL thus far although they are tied with the fewest road games, playing just eight.
“Obviously you play half the season on the road and we’re going into two tough rinks, but we’re going to have our fans there with us,” said Clarke MacArthur
of the games against Buffalo and Ottawa.
The last win on the road was October 15th against the Rangers. Look for the Leafs to try and get on the board early and determine the pace of the game.
“When we score first you look at our team and we seem to pick up momentum and roll and the other teams have to come out of their comfort zones. “
The Leafs will return to MasterCard Centre on Thursday for their final practice before busing out to Buffalo.