December 8, 2008
Leafs plug in Sifers
By TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA
Jaime Sifers will get a big opportunity tonight to see what he has learned from observation.
The defenceman will make his NHL debut on the Maple Leafs blue line against the New York Islanders, an experience that will come after he spent last week with the Leafs on the western road trip. Sifers, who is slated to be paired with Ian White tonight, did not get into any games on the trip but saw plenty.
"I was watching all of the Leafs defencemen, their tendencies and the speed of the game," Sifers said. "Being around them was a huge help and I don't feel uncomfortable at all."
Sifers roomed with injured defenceman Mike Van Ryn on the road, which also was a bonus. Van Ryn was there to give Sifers assistance on the chance the latter got into game. Sifers will be filling in for rookie Luke Schenn, who hurt his knee on Saturday night against the Washington Capitals. Schenn was scheduled to have an MRI this morning.
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Sifers will wear No. 59. A defensive defenceman who loves to block shots, Sifers had two goals and four assists, as well as 21 penalty minutes in 19 games with the Toronto Marlies.
"We will talk about a simplified game with him," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "Jaime does not play a complicated game anyway. We will get him to focus on defence. He will probably end up playing quite a bit, at least 15 minutes."
Right winger Jeremy Williams, who has some NHL games under his belt, also will play. Williams will take the place of Niklas Hagman, who suffered a slight concussion against the Capitals. Williams has four goals in 20 career games with the Leafs.
The Leafs will be trying to break a three-game losing streak, while the Islanders also have been stumbling with four losses in their past five games. The Leafs were 2-1-1 against the Islanders in 2007-08. Isles goalie Joey MacDonald has been sharp with starter Rick DiPietro out, compiling a .903 save percentage and 10 wins. Veteran Doug Weight leads the Islanders in scoring with 24 points (five goals and 19 assists) in 26 games.
Meanwhile, Joe Nieuwendyk's winter got busier this morning with the announcement by Hockey Canada that he has been named an assistant general manager for Canada's team at the 2009 world championship in Switzerland. Nieuwendyk is a special assistant to Leafs GM Brian Burke.