Leafs must redefine themselves

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:01 PM ET

The Maple Leafs fly to Vancouver this afternoon, hoping to be changed for the better by the time they return to Toronto after Halloween.

Really, they have no choice, if they're counting on making the playoffs. Though it's still early in the season, anything less than a 3-2 result in the coming five games will ensure the 30th-place Leafs play catch-up throughout the first half and likely the rest of the NHL season.

At 0-6-1, last in the 30-team NHL and playing under a cloud of fan and media criticism at home and coming off the fifth of six straight days off, this is a good time to be getting on the road.

"In order for this to be a great trip, it has to start with a win," defenceman Mike Komisarek said after practice at the MasterCard Centre.

The games begin Saturday against the Canucks with a Monday date in Anaheim, Wednesday in Dallas, a direct flight to Buffalo by-passing a potential day at home, for back-to-back against the Sabres and Canadiens.

The Leafs are taking four goaltenders for at least the first part of the trip. Starter Joey MacDonald, back-up James Reimer and two others recovering from injuries, Jonas Gustavsson (groin) and Vesa Toskala (knee). All four came out for today's workout with goalie consultant Francois Allaire, but Toskala left early.

"It's hard to say," Gustavsson said of meeting coach Ron Wilson's hope he can play as early as the Anaheim game. "I need more practices."

Early indications are that winger Nikolai Kulemin will be one of the two scratched forwards for Vancouver, while defenceman Luke Schenn's dramatic cut in ice time in last Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Rangers and the strong play of Ian White might lead to a change in roles on defence. But sitting out former Kelowna Rockets' star Schenn in the Leafs first visit to Vancouver since he made the NHL would be drastic, even for a team looking for a shake-up.

Wilson chose not to speak after practice. The forward lines today:

Viktor Stalberg Matt Stajan Niklas Hagman

Alexei Ponikarovsky Mikhail Grabovski Jason Blake

John Mitchell Rickard Wallin Lee Stempniak

Jamal Mayers Keith Primeau Colton Orr

Nikolai Kulemin Phil Kessel Jay Rosehill

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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