Leafs insert Bozak in lineup

LANCE HORNBY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 2:38 PM ET

With the Carolina Hurricanes closing fast in their rear-view mirror, a slightly-altered Maple Leafs' lineup seeks to put more space between themselves and last place in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto Marlie call-up Tyler Bozak will likely centre ther first line with Nikolai Kulemin and Phil Kessel, if not at the start then likely before the conclusion of tonight’s game at the Air Canada Centre. Defenceman Carl Gunnarsson, however, was deemed not 100% from an elbow injury and won’t make his first start since Nov. 30 until later this week.

This will be Bozak’s second stint with the Leafs after it looked like he might make the team right out of training camp. But no members of the Frat Pack line of college grad rookies, Viktor Stalberg, Bozak or Christian Hanson, stuck to the main roster, though Stalberg is currently on recall after injuries to centres Mikhail Grabovski and Wayne Primeau.

Bozak played one other game for the Leafs in October and had an assist, but it took him weeks to recover from a flu bug that sapped his strength and dropped his weight.

Coach Ron Wilson didn’t want to put too much pressure on the 23-year-old Bozak, who has 20 points in 32 games with the AHL Marlies.

“This is a natural progression,” Wilson said. “If (Bozak is sent back soon), then he has another notch of his experience under his belt.”

Bozak could get prime time ice right away, centring the slump-ridden Kessel, who has no goals since Dec. 30.

The Hurricanes seemed destined to finish last overall just a few weeks ago, but they have points in five of the past seven games and pould bring themselves within four of the Leafs with a regulation win tonight. They have overcome early season injuries to goaltender Cam Ward and centre Eric Staal.

“The talent has never been a problem, we just weren’t producing,” forward Rod Brind’Amour said.

Jonas Gustavsson is expected to start in goal for the Leafs.

Tonight's Lineup

Toronto

Forwards

LW C RW

Nikolai Kulemin Tyler Bozak Phil Kessel

Alexei Ponikarovsky Matt Stajan Niklas Hagman

Jason Blake John Mitchell Lee Stempniak

Viktor Stalberg Jamal Mayers Colton Orr

Defence

Ian White Francois Beauchemin

Tomas Kaberle Luke Schenn

Garnet Exelby Jeff Finger

Goal

Jonas Gustavsson, Vesa Toskala

Carolina

LW C RW

Ray Whitney Eric Staal Matt Cullen

Jussi Jokinen Brandon Sutter Tom Kostopoulos

Jerome Samson Jiri Tlusty Patrick Dwyer

Zach Boychuk Stephan Yelle Rod Brind'Amour

Defence

Aaron Ward Tim Gleason

Niclas Wallin Joni Pitkanen

Brett Carson Andrew Alberts

Goal

Cam Ward, Manny Legace


Photos