J-Line to boost Leafs?

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 PM ET

Ron Wilson hopes Jamal, Jason and John will have the jump his winless team has been lacking.

As part of a forward line shakeup, the Maple Leafs coach promoted fourth liner Jamal Mayers, demoted winger Jason Blake and put them on either side of third-line centre John Mitchell.

Mayers, whose pre-season attempt to retain a regular spot against several newcomers was disrupted by a concussion, played under 10 minutes so far. Blake and Mitchell have combined for two points in three games.

Head injury

“I’m trying different things in practice just as I would in a game,” Wilson said of the changes, “getting guys ready for the potential line shuffling that happens in a game. Some guys’ strengths work with other guys’ weaknesses.

“I’m not knocking Jamal, but we don’t really have anyone else to put up there. It’s not a reward, it’s an opportunity more than anything else.”

Wilson was refering to the head injury suffered by rookie left winger Viktor Stalberg that will sideline him the next few days and has unsettled the lines.

The visiting Pittsburgh Penguins might also might also throw a curveball at the Leafs tonight. On Thursday in Philadelphia, coach Dan Bylsma teamed centres Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal together.

Five goals

“It’s self-explanatory, another good player on the wing with Gino,” Bylsma said. “It’s something I’ve done in the past, based on how they’re playing, to make the line look a little different and based on match-ups. I’d anticipate doing that again.”

So far, the defending champions are 3-1, without a top-20 scorer, while tallying five goals in the win over Philly without Sidney Crosby registering a point.

“That’s what good teams do,” Staal said.

“We’re deep, with a lot of players who can put up numbers.”


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