RANGERS (6-4-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (6-5-2)
TV: CBC, MSG 2
TORONTO -- Morgan Rielly didn't like it but he accepted it.
Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle made the defenseman a healthy scratch for the first time this season Thursday when the Maple Leafs played the Colorado Avalanche. Rielly, the Maple Leafs first-round pick (No. 5) in the 2012 NHL Draft, is expected to be back in the lineup when Toronto hosts the New York Rangers on Saturday.
"That's what happens sometimes," Rielly said. "Obviously you don't want to be a healthy scratch; you always want to play and help your team. But it happens and you have to deal with it and try to bounce back from it."
Carlyle spoke with the second-year player, telling him he needs to use his terrific skating ability more to move the puck out of the defensive zone and also to get better body position to allow his defensive partner a little more time to chase down loose pucks.
In his first 12 games, Rielly had one goal and four points, but there have been times when he has not played with the same urgency he did last season as a 19-year-old rookie.
"I know that I am able to play better and Randy knows that too," Rielly said.
Carlyle hopes sitting out Thursday is a wake-up call for Rielly.
"He has to be a guy that gets inside," Carlyle said. "That's one of the things in today's hockey, with the freedom and ability these guys have. Skating is so much more important. It's as simple as taking two strides to provide some sort of screen or body position so your partner has another half a second to retrieve the puck."
Rielly said he did not lean on anyone to get him through the frustration of being sat out.
"I'm young but I'm not a kid," Rielly said. "I am able to handle it on my own. I had to deal with it last year and it's not a big issue. Obviously I'm not too happy about it, but it's just a matter of moving on and being a good teammate."
After back-to-back losses, the Rangers defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 Wednesday to raise their record to 6-4-2. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who will back up Cam Talbot in Toronto, said the Rangers are starting to get a feel for the type of team they are but won't know for sure until center Derek Stepan finds his game legs and veteran defenseman Dan Boyle returns from a broken hand.
"We haven't had a full team yet," Lundqvist said. "We were missing two great players in Stepan and Boyle and we also lost some key players from last year's team. I think everybody is trying to find their roles but it is tough when you are not playing with a full team. The last couple weeks we have been more consistent and we are getting there."
Here are the projected lineups:
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Martin St. Louis
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello
Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak
Tanner Glass - Kevin Hayes - Anthony Duclair
Marc Staal - Dan Girardi
Kevin Klein - Matt Hunwick
Conor Allen - Michael Kostka
Scratched: Ryan Malone
Suspended: John Moore
Injured: Dan Boyle (broken hand), Ryan McDonagh (shoulder separation)
Josh Leivo - Nazem Kadri - Phil Kessel
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - David Clarkson
Leo Komarov - Peter Holland - Mike Santorelli
Richard Panik - Sam Carrick - Matt Frattin
Dion Phaneuf - Cody Franson
Morgan Rielly - Roman Polak
Stephane Robidas - Jake Gardiner
Scratched: Stuart Percy
Injured: Daniel Winnik (upper body), David Booth (broken foot)
Status report: Kessel did not take the morning skate but will play. … Percy stayed on late during the morning skate, an indicator he'll likely be a healthy scratch. … The Maple Leafs say they are following league protocol by not playing Winnik, who was knocked unconscious Thursday in Colorado. … Stepan will make his debut after missing 12 games with a fractured leg. … The Rangers have signed veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle to a professional tryout contract.
Who's hot: Kessel is on a five-game points streak (three goals, seven assists). ... Bozak is tied for third in the League in power-play goals with four. … St. Louis has three goals and four points in his past two games. ... Hunwick has three assists in the past two games.