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Carlyle needs Maple Leafs' best players to step up

by Mike G. Morreale

BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs were back on the ice at Walter Brown Arena on the campus of Boston University on Friday in an attempt to formulate a better game plan heading into Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS).

While game-planning and strategy is all well and good, Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said he knows his best players need to earn their keep if his team has any shot at defeating the Bruins in the best-of-7 series.

That means Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri, Dion Phaneuf and James Reimer need to step up their games, or the organization's first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance in nine years will be a short one.

"In the playoffs you're tested daily, maybe shift-to-shift or period-to-period, and that's what it is," Carlyle said. "It's going out there and earning their space and delivering in pressure situations. That's what it's supposed to be. It's not supposed to be an easy game. This game is tough … it's played with big men out there moving at a quick pace. You're playing for keeps now."

Kessel, Lupul, Kadri and Phaneuf combined for five of Toronto's 20 shots in the Maple Leafs' 4-1 loss Wednesday. The team's best forward, James van Riemsdyk, had a goal and five shots on net in 17:24 of ice time.

"Turnovers at the blue line killed us [Wednesday]," Kadri said. "Boston is a transition team and it seemed like every chance they got was off a forecheck and a cycle. They would just rim the puck around, get their forecheck going and get a couple goals off of it. We have to take a page out of their book and get back to work."

Reimer finished with 36 saves but appeared uncomfortable on more than one occasion.

"We know we didn't play our best [Wednesday]," Reimer said. "It starts with me; I don't think I brought my best … and it's not like I didn't try, or I didn't want to bring my best -- it just didn't happen. We just keep moving forward."

Carlyle did say there were some positives he took from the Game 1 loss that need to be carried into Game 2. The Maple Leafs held a 37-30 advantage in hits.

"While the execution level wasn't where it needed to be, our work ethic was high and we were physical when we needed to be," Carlyle said. "But we didn't win enough of the 1-on-1 puck battles and that was a big disappointment. We competed, but then got frustrated and then discouraged."

Absent from Friday's practice was backup goalie Ben Scrivens, who was home with his family following the death of his grandfather. Scrivens, who was replaced by emergency backup Drew MacIntyre at practice Friday, is scheduled to be back in Boston on Saturday.

Carlyle put his players through a tough workout Friday, experimenting with several different defensive pairs.

"We're going to make decisions [with regard to lineup changes] based upon who will give us the best chance for success and we'll have some changes," Carlyle said after practice.

Tyler Bozak centered the top line, flanked by Lupul and Kessel, while Mikhail Grabovski was in the middle on the second line, between van Riemsdyk and Nikolai Kulemin. Kadri was centered a third line with Leo Komarov and Ryan Hamilton on the wings, and Clarke MacArthur, Jay McClement and Colton Orr were the fourth line. There was a fifth line of Frazer McLaren, Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin.

On defense, Cody Franson was paired with Phaneuf; Carl Gunnarsson split time with Ryan O'Byrne and Mark Fraser; and Jake Gardiner skated with John-Michael Liles.


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