TORONTO -- The Peter Horachek era begins when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Washington Capitals at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.
Horachek was officially named interim coach of the Maple Leafs Wednesday morning replacing Randy Carlyle, who was relieved of his coaching duties Tuesday.
Horachek has warned not to expect immediate changes in the way the Maple Leafs play. Toronto has lost two straight and is 3-7-0 in its past 10 games.
“I think when you have just one day there are only small tweaks you can do,” Horachek said. “As we go forward there may be things we talk about in terms of changes, but right now it is important the team regain its resolve and attitude about coming forth and being prepared to play as a group with some focus and energy. If you go in the first day and make it all about change there will be a little bit of a confusion and an unfocused attitude.”
Horachek did juggle his lines a bit and said, “You’re just trying to get them on the same page. We’re looking for consistency in our play and ultimately to do that you have to make some little tweaks that enables people to say they have been given an opportunity.”
Horachek said the Maple Leafs have played some good hockey this season including one stretch where they were 10-1-1 in a 12-game stretch. The Maple Leafs also added former NHL defenseman Steve Staios to the coaching staff.
“It’s not like the team has not played well all the time,” Horachek said. “Consistency has been a big problem. What we’re looking for is that resolve and attitude to say we’re going to show up every day and get that 60 minute hockey game.”
Maple Leafs players echoed their coach’s sentiments in terms of seeking consistency and one, right wing David Clarkson, agreed radical changes cannot be expected in one day.
“I think we’ve got to find a way to do the little things and it starts with limiting our shots against and helping these goalies out a bit,” Clarkson said. “Any time it’s a different person there are going to be different things happening, but for us it’s a game day in here and we’re more getting prepared as individuals for what’s ahead of us and that is tonight’s game.”
Washington captain Alexander Ovechkin said teams must be wary when facing an opponent that has just made a chancing change.
“It’s not that good for an organization when they change coaches,” Ovechkin said. “But I am pretty sure they are going to play with lots of urgency and they are going to try to play their best. It’s going to be an interesting game and a fun game, too.”
Likewise, the Maple Leafs know they are in for a tough game against a team that is 11-6-3 on the road, has won its last two games and is 7-1-2 in its past 10 games.
“These guys are a good team,” Clarkson said. “They are very talented so you have to be ready to go from the beginning of the game.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Andre Burakovsky
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Jack Hillen – Mike Green
Scratched: Michael Latta, Nate Schmidt
Daniel Winnik – Nazem Kadri – Phil Kessel
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Mike Santorelli
Leo Komarov – Trevor Smith – David Clarkson
David Booth – Sam Carrick – Richard Panik
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Korbinian Holzer
Morgan Rielly – Roman Polak
Scratched: Stephane Robidas, Greg McKegg
Injured: Peter Holland (upper body), Joffrey Lupul (lower body)
Status report: If Holtby starts as expected he will establish a new Washington franchise record for consecutive games played by a goalie at 22. He started all those game except one in which he entered the game in the second period. … Niskanen missed the Capitals practice Monday, but is expected to play Wednesday.
Who’s hot: Phaneuf has an assist in each of his past four games for the Maple Leafs. … Ovechkin has a goal and an assist in each of his past three games for the Capitals. … Centre Eric Fehr has four goals and five points in his past four games.