Wilson changes Leafs power play

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:01 PM ET

TORONTO - Phil Kessel was benched in the Leafs’ last game.

Now he’s getting short-changed on power-play minutes.

Ron Wilson was pleased with the way Kessel responded in the third period after sitting him out for a couple of shifts against Dallas. But, the Leafs’ head coach said Thursday he is going to make changes on the power play.

His best line has been Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nik Kulemin. “They’ve scored a lot and I haven’t even used them as the primary power play guys but I’m going to start to do that now.”

That would translate into a demotion for Toronto’s top line of Kessel, Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak.

“They’re producing better than our No. 1 line that’s supposed to be putting numbers up consistently. but they haven’t. So I have to find ways to get them on the ice more.”

Wilson said he’s been displeased with the Bozak line’s consistency the past 15 games and he already has flipped other people on and off the No. 1 unit.

Not much has worked, although Kadri has shown flashes of nice play-making. Defensively both Bozak (-2) and Kessel (-4) have been less than efficient. Kessel snapped a seven-game scoring drought recently but Wilson limited him to 15:05 in ice time against Dallas, his lightest outing of the season.

Wilson sat his star after the Stars scored their only goal, questioning Kessel’s backcheck attempts.

GETTING THE POINT

Kris Versteeg seems to be evolving into the type of contributor the Maple Leafs thought they were getting when they traded for him last summer.

After scoring just two goals in the first 15 games, Versteeg now has four in the past four games.

“I think he’s moving the puck a bit better,” Wilson said. “He was guilty of playing a lot of one-on-one hockey and he’s using his teammates. But the important thing was to get him into a comfortable position on the power play.”

Versteeg says playing the point is unfamiliar territory. “It’s something new. I haven’t done it in a couple years and ... I’m still learning, watching other forwards in the league. I’ll try to learn things from them and put it into my own game.”

Three of the four goals have come from shots from the point.

MASH 101

A puck hit Kessel in the face after his shot deflected off Colton Orr’s stick during one-on-one drills on Thursday. He got a big hug from Orr, and later left practice early, but there was no obvious damage.

Mike Brown, who took a shot in the delicates during Wednesday practice, didn’t skate yesterday. “He’s sore today, but he probably could’ve practiced,” Wilson said. “I think he’ll be ready to play (against Buffalo).

As a precaution, Luca Caputi was recalled from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.

Colby Armstrong, who has missed the past 12 games with a torn tendon in his finger, skated and took shots again Thursday. Armstrong was on the ice an hour before the rest of his teammates were scheduled to practice. He spent time accepting passes on his backhand, trying to regain the strength and mobility in his injured left hand.

Armstrong is hoping to return by the end of next week. He’s wearing a splint and still needs medical clearance to being contact drills.

“I’m pretty excited (about getting back to regular practice) instead of skating in a straight line by myself. It’s been tough watching. I’m itching to get back.”

Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere (groin) worked with goaltending consultant Francois Allaire after his teammates had showered and left the arena.


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