TORONTO - Who likes losing?
With a stumbling streak that has now hit seven games and 10 of their past 11, the Leafs returned home to practise Thursday morning after back-to-back losses in Florida and the players were doing their best to keep a brave face.
Not that it’s easy when the hockey net is starting to seem about as big as a basketball hoop.
“This should not be pleasant for anybody,” goaltender J-S Giguere said following practice. “If you are in this (slump) and having fun, you should question where your head is at and where your heart is.”
With a couple of days to practice in advance of Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, coach Ron Wilson led his team through a busy practice Thursday that included a major shuffle of the top two lines.
Joining Phil Kessel on the first unit was centre Mikhail Grabovski and winger Nikolai Kulemin while Kris Versteeg and Tyler Bozak moved to the second line alongside Clarke MacArthur.
The move was done in part to help Bozak settle a little in his first full season as an NHL centre.
“I don’t want him to think his only job on the ice is to pass the puck to Phil,” Wilson said of Bozak. “Sometimes he gets focussed on that, which any young player would. And now he’s not shooting and getting any chances himself. Maybe just give him a couple of different linemates and relax a little bit.”
For the most part, the Leafs were surprisingly upbeat despite the recent run - which has included shutout losses in three of the seven games on the losing streak. Much of the practice was spent working on tough play in front of the net including rebounds and deflections.
“What I want us to see is to play like we did in the first four games, where wee were skating and playing with a sense of urgency,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of backed off a little bit. I started to feel it at times (Thursday night) and now we’ve got a little thing to build on.”