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At the Rink: Blackhawks at Maple Leafs

by Mike Brophy /

TORONTO -- Mike Babcock likes to coach against the NHL's best coaches.

Babcock will get the opportunity Friday when his Toronto Maple Leafs host the Chicago Blackhawks at Air Canada Centre (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CSN-CH, TSN4).

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville became the NHL's second all-time winningest coach when the Blackhawks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Thursday. The win was Quenneville's 783rd, moving him past Al Arbour; he trails Scotty Bowman, who has 1,244 victories.

"Scotty's safe," Quenneville joked after the win in Montreal.

"He's a good man and a good coach," Babcock said of Quenneville. "He's in a good situation in that he's got lots of talent. It was fun to watch his team play last night."

The Blackhawks have won nine in a row; the Maple Leafs have lost three straight. As good a coach as Quenneville is, Babcock said there are other obvious factors that go into a coach enjoying success.

"The key is having good players," Babcock said. "Don't ever kid yourself. Good players make the game a lot of fun. I saw some stuff last night that we don't dare try. That's what good players do; they create something out of nothing within the structure of the game and they beat the defensive structure."

The Blackhawks boast a core of star players including forward Patrick Kane, who leads the NHL in scoring with 25 goals and 63 points in 46 games, captain Jonathan Toews, forward Marian Hossa and defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

"They can roll four lines at you because they are so deep up front, but also in the backend they are good too," Maple Leafs defenseman Matt Hunwick said. "They put five guys in the offensive zone and they can be hard to handle with their cycling. With the skill they have, you have to be extremely tight with your gap and have a good stick. It's a big challenge for everybody in the League to play against them."

The Maple Leafs are a team in transition whose top scorer, left wing James van Riemsdyk, is out 6-8 weeks with a fractured foot. Forward Leo Komarov also has 29 points.

For the second straight game the Maple Leafs are facing an opponent that played the night before. Toronto was unable to take advantage of the situation Wednesday in losing 3-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"We have to start on time; we have to be ready to go," Babcock said. "It was interesting, watching the game last night, in that Chicago really got going in the first 10 minutes and they had (the puck) on a string and the game was over. Montreal really came on and they cycled the puck, but they didn't start on time. If we come out and watch them instead of playing it can get ugly fast."

Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul agreed with Babcock, saying the Maple Leafs must be ready from the first drop of the puck.

"Our preparation has to be better than it was against Columbus," Lupul said. "They played last night so we should be able to get a jump on them. That was our plan against Columbus too, but we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a bit. By the time we got playing we were down a couple of goals and their goalie ended up playing pretty well."

Quenneville had some kind words upon passing Arbour, the former coach of the St. Louis Blues and New York Islanders.

"Trying to play against his teams over the years, he was one of those guys that was distinguished behind the bench," Quenneville said. "He had a Scotty (Bowman)-type of an aura back there. His teams were always winning teams and they always played hard and were tough to play against. I think as a player you heard a lot of good things about Al as well. His teams were successful, and catching him, I'm very honored."

Here are the projected lineups:


Andrew ShawJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Artemi PanarinArtem AnisimovPatrick Kane

Andrew DesjardinsPhillip DanaultTeuvo Teravainen

Richard PanikDennis RasmussenRyan Garbutt

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Michal RozsivalBrent Seabrook

Trevor van RiemsdykRob Scuderi

Scott Darling

Corey Crawford

Injured: Marcus Kruger (left wrist fracture), Erik Gustafsson (lower body)

Scratched: Bryan Bickell, Brandon Mashinter


Shawn MatthiasTyler BozakPA Parenteau

Michael GrabnerNazem KadriLeo Komarov

Daniel WinnikPeter HollandJoffrey Lupul

Josh LeivoByron FroeseBrad Boyes

Jake GardinerDion Phaneuf

Martin MarincinMorgan Rielly

Matt HunwickRoman Polak

James Reimer

Jonathan Bernier

Injured: James van Riemsdyk (fractured foot), Nick Spaling (upper body), Stephane Robidas (upper body)

Scratched: Frank Corrado, Rich Clune

Status report: The Maple Leafs recalled left wing Clune from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.

Who's hot: Toews has three goals and seven points in his past four games. … Shaw has five points (two goals, three assists) in three games. … Hossa has two goals and four points in three games. … Komarov has five goals and 15 points in the past 15 games. … Kadri has three goals and 11 points in 12 games.

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