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At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Jets

by Patrick Williams /

WINNIPEG -- The long road for the Toronto Maple Leafs ends Saturday when they visit the Winnipeg Jets.

The game will close a season-high seven-game road trip for the Maple Leafs, who lost 3-1 at the Minnesota Wild on Friday. The loss was Toronto's sixth in its past eight games (2-6-0).

After returning home to Air Canada Centre for two games next week, the Maple Leafs will begin a stretch of nine of their next 11 games on the road.

With an arrival in Winnipeg early Saturday, Toronto held a lightly attended optional morning skate. At 3.23 goals per game, the Maple Leafs enter play Saturday with the highest-scoring offense in the NHL, but they will be without center Nazem Kadri and left wing Joffrey Lupul. Each player is out with a lower-body injury. Center Peter Holland has an upper-body injury and will not play Saturday.

Winnipeg has lost two games in regulation in a row for the first time since Nov. 20-23 and has its own injury problems. Defensemen Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom and Mark Stuart are on injured reserve with long-term lower-body injuries. Defenseman Jacob Trouba (upper body) also is on injured reserve and left wing Evander Kane will miss his third consecutive game with a lower-body injury that will keep him out until February.

The injuries and the workload that has been imposed on the Winnipeg blue line has Jets coach Paul Maurice on guard.

"They skate well and they can score goals," Maurice said of Toronto. "They don't have to win games or compete games [by having] to grind that thing right out every night."

With Kane out, Maurice altered his third and fourth lines in preparation for Toronto. TJ Galiardi will move to the third line and play with center Adam Lowry and right wing Matt Halischuk. Chris Thorburn will return to the fourth line as the left wing on a line with center Jim Slater and right wing Anthony Peluso.

Winnipeg's forwards also will be expected to avoid engaging the Maple Leafs in trading offensive chances.

"I think we definitely have to play a little better defense than we have been the past two games," center Bryan Little said of the Jets, who have allowed eight goals in their past two games. "[Toronto] is a team that likes to [thrive] off turnovers and they have a good transition game. We can't be turning pucks over and we have got to be on high-alert for their offensive [threats]."

Maurice will start rookie goaltender Michael Hutchinson for the fifth time in the past seven games. After starting Jonathan Bernier at Minnesota, the Maple Leafs are expected to turn to James Reimer in net.

Here are the projected lineups:


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Daniel Winnik - Leo Komarov - David Clarkson

Richard Panik - Trevor Smith - Mike Santorelli

David Booth - Greg McKegg - Carter Ashton

Dion Phaneuf - Cody Franson

Morgan Rielly - Roman Polak

Jake Gardiner - Korbinian Holzer

James Reimer

Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: Stephane Robidas

Injured: Peter Holland (upper body), Nazem Kadri (lower body), Joffrey Lupul (lower body)


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Michael Frolik

TJ Galiardi - Adam Lowry - Matt Halischuk

Chris Thorburn - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso

Ben Chiarot - Dustin Byfuglien

Jay Harrison - Grant Clitsome

Adam Pardy - Paul Postma

Michael Hutchinson

Ondrej Pavelec

Scratched: Julien Brouillette, Patrice Cormier

Injured: Zach Bogosian (lower body), Toby Enstrom (lower body), Evander Kane (lower body), Mark Stuart (lower body), Jacob Trouba (upper body)

Status report: The Maple Leafs announced Friday that Lupul will be out four weeks and Kadri will miss 7-10 days. Holland is out on a week-to-week basis. … Bogosian, Enstrom, Stuart and Trouba skated Friday at practice but none of the four players will return imminently.

Who's hot: The Toronto power play has a goal in four of its past five games, going 4-for-17 in that span. … Wheeler has two goals and three assists in his past four games.

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