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Maple Leafs' Gardiner returns to lineup vs. Red Wings

by Mike Brophy

RED WINGS (1-1-1) at MAPLE LEAFS (2-2-0)


TORONTO -- Two games as a healthy scratch is two games too many for Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner.

Gardiner did not play to a standard that pleased himself or coach Randy Carlyle and was a healthy scratch the previous two games. Gardiner said he was not surprised at the turn of events and did a little soul-searching during his time off.

Friday against the Detroit Red Wings, Gardiner will be back in the lineup, playing alongside his usual partner, Morgan Rielly.

With Gardiner in, veteran Stephane Robidas will be a healthy scratch.

"I don't think anyone is ever happy when they sit out," Gardiner said. "It's not ideal, but when the team is playing well that's just how it goes sometimes. I'm just excited to get back in the lineup."

Toronto lost its first two games, but with Gardiner out they beat the New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche. Gardiner said he has talked with Carlyle about what he needs to do to stay in the lineup.

"He knows I can play better," Gardiner said. "I have to elevate my game to where it was last year and I'll be fine."

The 24-year-old is a swift-skating offense-minded defender who had 10 goals and 31 points in 80 games last season. In two games this season he has one assist and a minus-3 rating while averaging 21:16 in ice time per game.

Rielly, who also shares a condominium with Gardiner, said he was impressed with the way his defense partner dealt with the situation.

"I think he handled it very well," Rielly said. "Jake is a true professional and he knows why he didn't play. He's ready to come back and he's going to play well. He's driven and he wants to prove to Randy that he's a top defenseman in this League."

Carlyle said he doesn't expect any more from Gardiner than any other defenseman on the Maple Leafs. He felt Gardiner was not fully engaged mentally in the first two games and expects that to change.

"I expect him to play to a higher level and to move the puck more effectively," Carlyle said. "He needs to be stronger defensively and take the body when it presents itself. He needs to be a hockey player and an effective hockey player."

The Red Wings are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he will be looking for more team speed in Toronto.

"I was telling everyone a couple of days ago how fast we were and then I watched us play Boston and we were as slow as molasses," Babcock said. "So I'm hoping it's going to be fast from our end and slow from their end. We never won any draws and they were on top of us all the time. To me it's real simple and there are a couple of things that lead to you playing slow; you never win a faceoff, you turn to puck over in the [defensive] zone and you stay out too long so you can't play with pace."

With center Pavel Datsyuk still injured, the Red Wings have been leaning on Gustav Nyquist for offense. The 25-year-old right wing had 28 goals and 48 points in 57 games last season and has a goal in each of the Red Wings first three games this season.

Babcock moved Nyquist off Henrik Zetterberg's line against Boston in an effort to get him away from Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, but the two Red Wings will be reunited in Toronto. Babcock said he is not sure what Nyquist's upside is.

"He has scored everywhere he's been, but he has scored points, not goals," Babcock said. "He's got a good shot and elite hockey sense and obviously he's got confidence. There are a lot of players who come into this League and it takes a long time for them to get confidence. He arrived a little bit older and a little bit more established so he got his confidence quicker."

Here are the projected lineups:


Gustav Nyquist - Henrik Zetterberg - Johan Franzen

Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Jurco

Andrej Nestrasil - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader

Joakim Andersson - Luke Glendening - Drew Miller

Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson

Brendan Smith - Danny DeKeyser

Jakub Kindl - Kyle Quincey

Jimmy Howard

Jonas Gustavsson

Scratched: Daniel Cleary, Stephen Weiss

Injured: Pavel Datsyuk (shoulder)


James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel

Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Daniel Winnik

Leo Komarov - Mike Santorelli - David Clarkson

Richard Panik - Peter Holland - Brandon Kozun

Dion Phaneuf - Cody Franson

Stuart Percy - Roman Polak

Jake Gardiner - Morgan Rielly

James Reimer

Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: Matt Frattin, Carter Ashton, Stephane Robidas

Injured: None

Status report: Lupul skipped practice for a maintenance day Thursday but will dress. … With Gardiner back in, Robidas will miss his first game of the season. … Nestrasil continues to impress the Red Wings coaching staff with his skating and energy filling in for Datsyuk. … The Red Wings played Miller on the top line against Boston on Wednesday, but he will start on the fourth line with Nyquist back on the No. 1 line.

Who's hot: Kessel has two goals and five points in Toronto's past two games. … Reimer is expected to get his third consecutive start after winning his last two games. … Nyquist has one goal in each of Detroit's three games.

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