October 26, 2010
Leafs need to get their groove back
By DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
TORONTO - It’s still early in the season but already the Toronto Maple Leafs have experienced a year’s worth of emotions. After soaring to a 4-0 start, their best since 1993, the Leafs have plummeted to three straight losses, the most recent being a 5-2 defeat to the Flyers in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Toronto will try to get its campaign back on track when it hosts the speedy Florida Panthers (3-3) on Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Just as disturbing to the Maple Leafs (4-2-1) as the three losses, is the fact that they only managed four goals over that time period. To help generate a bit more offence, coach Ron Wilson has dropped winger Kris Versteeg down to the second line with centre Mikhail Grabovski and winger Clarke MacArthur and reunited winger Nikolai Kulemin with the top unit of centre Tyler Bozak and sniper Phil Kessel.
The three finished off last season as the Leafs most productive line.
“The only thing I want to do is win and get a few more scoring chances,” Wilson said after the team’s morning skate on Tuesday. “I don’t think these are Earth-shattering moves. We’ve flipped two guys, that’s all.”
But if the Leafs hope to beat the Panthers, Wilson’s tweaks will have to be somewhat Earth shattering.
Of the team’s top-six forwards, only Kessel and MacArthur have been able to find the net with any regularity, each having scored six goals.
“We’re excited for sure. We finished off pretty well at the end of last year … Bringing Kule back to our line is going to be a big asset for us and hopefully we can just carry on from what we did last year,” Bozak said.
Along with flipping Kulemin and Versteeg, Brett Lebda is back on the blue line after being a healthy scatch in Philadelphia and Mike Zigomanis is back to replace John Mitchell as the fourth-line centre.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (3-1-1) will start in goal again for the Leafs. He stopped 35 of 40 shots against the Flyers on Saturday, though he did lose his past two meetings with the Panthers and posted a 3.08 goals against average in those contests.