The Maple Leafs could have a different look on the blue line tonight.
Could sophomore Luke Schenn, who has played in every game this season, be the odd man out? It could happen. Both Jeff Finger, who has been a healthy scratch the past three games, and Garnet Exelby, who also has been in out of the lineup, told Sun Media they will be in uniform against the Washington Capitals at the Air Canada Centre.
Schenn said he had not heard that he would not play. When asked if there would be a change in the defence corps, Leafs coach Ron Wilson would only say “Possibly.”
Finger has not played since he was minus-3 against the Boston Bruins last Saturday. In all, Finger has been scratched 16 times this season.
“It’s always hard to sit and watch,” Finger said. “I didn’t think it was that bad of a game (against the Bruins). But that’s the way it has been this year. That’s the way it goes.”
The Capitals, who beat the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime at home last night on a goal by defenceman Mike Green, travelled to Toronto this morning. They had planned to fly from Washington after their game against Carolina, but plane trouble kept them grounded overnight.
The Caps didn’t have a morning skate, but Wilson did not expect that to cause problems for the Washington players.
“I don’t think it will have any effect at all to be honest with you,” Wilson said. “Sometimes the routine does not mean a damn thing and players hide behind it.”
Wilson then related how the Leafs usually bus into Buffalo on the morning of game days against the Sabres.
“Part of that is that Bufflao can be a little depressing,” Wilson said, drawing laughs. “You can only eat so many chicken wings.”
The Leafs were able to contain Alexander Ovechkin in the previous game between the clubs, a 2-1 Leafs win in a shootout on Nov. 21. Though Ovechkin scored the Capitals’ goal that night, the strong play of defenceman Francois Beauchemin helped keep Ovechkin in check.
“It’s hard,” Beauchemin said. “You try to be in his face all the time so he does not get speed going. He can score from everywhere. If you are on your heels, giving him time and space, it is not really what you want.”
The Capitals are 20-6-6 and their 46 points have them at the top of the NHL standings. The Leafs, 10-14-7 and winners of their past two home games, have 27 points and are in 14th place in the Eastern Conference.
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau hinted after the game against Carolina that rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth, who has played in six NHL games, would start tonight. Vesa Toskala will start for the Leafs.
Tomas Kaberle-Mike Komisarek
Francois Beauchemin-Ian White
Jeff Finger-Garnet Exelby/Luke Schenn
Alexei Ponikarovsky-Matt Stajan-Phil Kessel
Jason Blake-Mikhail Grabovski-Niklas Hagman
Nikolai Kulemin-Wayne Primeau-Lee Stempniak
Jamal Mayers-Rickard Wallin-Colton Orr
Jeff Schultz-Mike Green
Shaone Morrisonn-Tom Poti
John Erskine-Milan Jurcina
Alexander Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Alexander Semin
Brooks Laich-Brendan Morrison-Mike Knuble
Tomas Fleischmann-Mathieu Perreault-Eric Fehr
Chris Clark-David Steckel-Matt Bradley