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At the Rink: Flyers at Maple Leafs

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- As the Philadelphia Flyers continue to push for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to the future.

On Wednesday the Maple Leafs traded left wing Daniel Winnik to the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Zach Sill, a fourth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2016 draft.

Sill will make his debut with the Maple Leafs on Thursday against the Flyers.

While he said it is difficult to leave a playoff-bound team for one that won't play in the postseason, Sill also thinks the move will be a good for his career.

"I was in and out of the lineup in Pittsburgh," Sill, 26, said. "When everyone is healthy it's a hard lineup to crack. Coming here is a good opportunity to get in the lineup and try to do some good things. I'm going to try to put my best foot forward and make an impression."

An aggressive player who had one goal, three points and 60 penalty minutes in 42 games this season with the Penguins, Sill knows his role.

"I'm an energy guy," Sill said. "I'm a fourth-liner and that probably isn't going to change. I'm not going to put up a lot of points, but I'm going to give a spark when the team needs it."

The Maple Leafs ended a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) with a 4-3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets at home on Saturday.

The Flyers are 4-2-4 in their past 10 games but are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. The Flyers are four points behind the Boston Bruins for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

Philadelphia will have Rob Zepp in goal. He grew up in nearby Newmarket, Ontario as a fan of the Maple Leafs, having attended games at Maple Leaf Gardens and Air Canada Centre.

"I was a Leafs fan growing up in the Greater Toronto Area like most people are," Zepp said. "It's a real thrill to be back here tonight. It's going to be a special night, but to be honest I have to put those personal emotions aside. We have a big job to do. We need these two points tonight for our playoff push so that takes precedence over everything else."

The 33-year-old took the long route to the NHL. After spending three seasons with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, he played in the minor leagues for four seasons. He moved to Europe in 2005, and spent the previous seven seasons playing in Germany.

"There were doubts [about making the NHL] that creep into your mind, but I always believed I had the ability to do it," Zepp said. "I believed in myself and I had a lot of people around me that did as well. It was just a matter of getting the opportunity."

The Flyers recently broke up their top two scorers, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, playing them on separate lines in an effort to spread the scoring around.

"We have been playing pretty good, our line," Giroux said. "Maybe the last game wasn't as good as two games before but we had a couple of good chances. If we play good defense we will get good chances on offense."

Here are the projected lineups:


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek

Ryan White- Brayden Schenn - R.J. Umberger

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Zac Rinaldo

Nick Schultz - Mark Streit

Michael Del Zotto - Braydon Coburn

Nicklas Grossmann - Andrew MacDonald

Rob Zepp

Steve Mason

Scratched: Vincent Lecavalier, Luke Schenn, Carlo Colaiacovo

Injured: Ray Emery (lower body), Kimmo Timonen (blood clots)


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Richard Panik

Leo Komarov - Olli Jokinen - David Clarkson

Zach Sill - Peter Holland - David Booth

Dion Phaneuf - Korbinian Holzer

Morgan Rielly - Roman Polak

Jake Gardiner - Stephane Robidas

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Scratched: Brandon Kozun, Petter Granberg

Injured: Trevor Smith (lower body)

Status report: Phaneuf returns after missing 12 games with a hand injury. … With Mason returning as the backup goalie, the Flyers sent Anthony Stolarz to Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League. … Timonen is expected to make his season debut Saturday against the New York Rangers.

Who's Hot: Simmonds has eight goals and 14 points in his past 13 games. He had a career-high eight-game points streak ended Tuesday. … Del Zotto has five goals and 13 points in the past 16 games. … Rielly has three assists in the past three games.

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