Skip to main content

Maple Leafs' Gardiner ready to make playoff debut

by Mike G. Morreale

BOSTON -- Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle promised some changes to his lineup for Game 2 against the Boston Bruins in an effort to even this best-of-7 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal on Saturday at TD Garden.

The most significant move might come on defense because Michael Kostka is out indefinitely after sustaining a broken finger in the second period of Game 1 on Wednesday. Carlyle told the media after his team's optional practice Saturday morning he is keeping all lineup changes internal and wouldn't reveal anything.

But there's a strong possibility 22-year-old Jake Gardiner could become the 11th player on the Maple Leafs roster to make his debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The more experienced Ryan O'Byrne could be called into duty.

Despite the fact Gardiner hasn't played since registering two assists in a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders on April 18, Carlyle did say he would welcome his ability off the transition.

"One of his assets is his skating ability and his ability to skate the puck out, and we're going to look for that out of all of our defensemen," Carlyle said.

During Friday's practice, Gardiner worked the second power-play unit with John-Michael Liles.

"He's a great young player and a very good skater; he keeps it simple and can move the puck," Liles said of Gardiner. "He'll be fine."

The team's first defensive pair was captain Dion Phaneuf with Cody Franson. O'Byrne, who offers size (6-foot-5, 234 pounds) and experience, has played 19 postseason games throughout his career.

"The Bruins play a north-south game, a hard game, and they have some big forwards, so if I am playing I'll have to get in there and play physical and hard and use my playoff experience," O'Byrne said. "We need to take away their time and space and move the puck out of the zone quickly."

There's the chance Carlyle inserts both Gardiner and O'Byrne into his lineup, but that won't be known until pregame warm-ups.

Gardiner, who has four assists in 12 games with the Maple Leafs this season, anticipates another physical game against the Bruins.

"They are a tough team to play against, have some big players, so I am going to have to be pretty physical," he said. "That's one of the areas I need to work on and I'll bring that [Saturday]. We're both big teams and play similar styles."

Gardiner played 17 playoff games with the Toronto Marlies, the team's American Hockey League affiliate, last season and had two goals and 11 points.

"The playoffs were awesome with the Marlies, and it was loud the other night [at TD Garden]," Gardiner said. "[Liles] is great to play with. He moves the puck well and he's an older guy [32], so I can take some experience from that."

Here is how Toronto could line up against the Bruins on Saturday:

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

James van Riemsdyk - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - Ryan Hamilton

Clarke MacArthur - Jay McClement - Colton Orr

Cody Franson - Dion Phaneuf

Carl Gunnarsson - Ryan O'Byrne or Mark Fraser

Jake Gardiner - John-Michael Liles

James Reimer

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Matt Frattin, Joe Colborne, Frazer McLaren

Injured: Michael Kostka (broken finger)


View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.