MONTREAL - For the Maple Leafs, the change in net for the Canadiens from Carey Price to Alex Auld for Thursday’s game did not subtract from the importance of the mission.
Get a goal at the Bell Centre where they’ve been shut out twice this season, preferably a few, to keep playoff hopes alive.
“The last time we were in here, my grandmother could have played net and we would have lost,” said Toronto centre Tim Brent.
He meant no disrespect to Price, who has made 57 consecutive saves versus Toronto at his home rink this year, but 12 days ago was indeed a game where the Leafs came up small. Auld, who is 4-2-1 with a .926 save percentage, was designated the starter after the Canadiens’ morning skate. Coach Jacques Martin usually plays the percentages where Price’s numbers against the Leafs are concerned - Price had a chance at being the first Canadiens’ goalie in team history to shut out the Leafs in three home games in the same season - but after a busy night in Vancouver on Tuesday and a long plane ride home, he tabbed the veteran Auld.
The last time Auld lost a game in regulation was to the Leafs, a 3-1 decision at the Air Canada Centre on Dec. 11.
“Regardless of who is there, we have to bring a lot more pucks and bodies to the net.” Brent added.
Winger Joffrey Lupul is healthy enough to play after taking Wednesday’s practice off to rest some minor injuries. This will be his first meeting with Canadiens’ abrasive young defenceman P.K. Subban since the Feb. 12 match here when Subban popped him in a fight as Lupul was taking his helmet off.
“We can’t be worried about fighting and settling scores,” Lupul said, noting that Subban did apologize after the incident. “Last time we played here, we played poorly and were dominated all over the ice.”
The Leafs will not alter their goaltending plans, sending James Reimer out in search of his 10th win.
“We’ll see who starts (for Montreal), but it won’t change what we have to do,” coach Ron Wilson said. “We have to get traffic in front, get off to a good start and play on our toes as we have been since the all-star break. Try and get a point, if not both of them.
“Getting to the net, staying at the net and winning those battles...we talk about it all the time. Our players are saying the right things in the paper, they know they have to do it. Let’s do it tonight.”