Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek spoke to the media on Tuesday ahead of the club's game with the Rangers at Air Canada Centre. Here's what he had to say...
On tonight's lineup:
We're going to keep it the same (as Saturday).
On his skate conversation with David Clarkson:
All I can say is he's a proud guy and a competitor. He has handled himself like a pro, he wants to get better, he wants to be back in the lineup and I made the decision to stay with the same lineup that won. That's really all that needs to go. He's a guy that's going to be back in the lineup and he's doing what he needs to do. He's acting like a pro and you've got to expect that... That's a day-to-day occurrence. Usually that happens in here and you don't get to film it but it's an every day occurrence, we have long conversations and we sometimes go over a lot of different things. That happens on a regular basis... He's fiery and I love that. I have a lot of respect for him, absolutely. He is proud and he's a competitor and that's what we need more of.
On scratching Clarkson as a message to the group or to the player:
I think his play, going from last game, we want more. He's trying and he's listening, we ask for things and he tries to do that and tonight's game was more of a reflection on staying with a winning lineup and not changing that. I have a lot of respect for him and what he brings... There's more all over. The whole game is there and the production isn't there for a lot of guys. We want more out of all our guys and I'm going to ask for that without getting into specifics.
On if Clarkson is still trying to find his role on the team:
I can't really speak to last year too much but the team has gone through adversity this year and I think it has affected a lot of guys. You need to have your leadership and people that pull yourself through it and he wants to be that guy.
On facing Rick Nash:
I've seen a lot of Rick Nash. He was our rival for a lot of years when I was in Nashville and he was in Columbus. He's such a big man, he can protect the puck so well, he's got such a long wingspan. He can score from behind the net and in front of the net — he's so good there. He has the ability to skate and shoot and he's carrying a lot of their shots and their chances. He's carrying a lot of their percentages on their goals. He has been having a good year. He's a dangerous guy to handle because of his size and strength and his skill level. It's very hard. You can't give him much room. You're going to give up something and you're hoping that when that happens your goalie is going to come up big.
On Morgan Rielly:
He's really coming along. As a young player, he's 20, most guys aren't able to do that — what he does and what he's able to do. The discussions I had with him earlier in the year were more about where he was on the ice and what he was going to do with the puck in those situations. Right now he's so dynamic and he's coming along, I can just envision his ability and what he's going to be in the future growing up. He still has a long way to go, he still has decisions and defending and areas of understanding what the best choices are. That's what all young players go through and that's the maturity of young defencemen. Most defencemen take a lot of games to get to where they need to be and his progression is coming along very well.
On Rielly taking a more active role in the offence:
Every guy is a little different. We show them a lot of film, we show them a lot of situations. Steve Staios is doing that now. He is going through a lot of situations on the ice where he can say, 'What was your best choice here? What was your decision? What did you see in this situation? What would be better for you in this situation?' That's part of it when we go through play-by-play sometimes. We try to evaluate and he is very receptive. One of the things he is able to do is shake off and come back the next day with a good personal attitude and approach to it. Wanting to get better. That's a positive trait for a young player. So many times where he felt like he made a mistake or had a bad game it affects them for periods of time but he's able to come back the next day with a positive approach.
On the impact of Steve Staios:
Quite a bit. He has a keen vision for defencemen and where they are on the ice. We've spent a lot of time talking about situations and looking at them together and spending the time now with them, it's a different voice and a different way to look at it. He has a good vision and he has been doing a very good job with them.