Limping Leafs shuffle deck for Bruins

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:45 PM ET

TORONTO - An early winter storm is headed to Toronto from New England and the Maple Leafs are trying to avoid getting snowed under.

With the hungry Boston Bruins in town Saturday and threatening to add to Leaf misery, the team is making four significant lineup moves as it tries to avoid falling more than 10 points out of the playoffs:

* Physical winger Jay Rosehill has been called up from the AHL Toronto Marlies.

* Winger Colby Armstrong, as expected, will be back after a five-week recovery from a torn knuckle tendon.

* Rookie Nazem Kadri has been bumped to the wing to fourth line centre between giants Rosehill and Colton Orr and will get special power play duty.

* Phil Kessel, who will have a very uncomfortable spotlight on him again as he faces his old team, will be tried at centre wih Armstrong and Kris Versteeg.,

It’s hoped one or more of these moves will keep the Leafs in the game after their bottom-feeding brethren from Edmonton slashed them 5-0 on Thursday. With his team shutout six times already this season and tied for second last in NHL scoring, the new lines and the light shooting defence were all engaged in heavy traffic drill at practice on Friday to encourage scoring.

Wilson saw no point to letting his players go 3-on-0 and shoot at empty nets to get out of their individual funks. And he blamed the paltry three goals from the defence on their reluctance to follow up on the attack.

“It’s ugly hockey, but once you can cash in one, maybe the handcuffs will come off,” Wilson said of Friday's drills.

After an autumn of saying that Kadri’s development would not be served at all by playing on the fourth line, Wilson and general manager Brian Burke are banking that he’ll have less pressure on him in a lesser role. And any scorer, even a slumping one, is needed at this stage.

Rosehill’s arrival speaks for itself.

“We miss (injured) Mike Brown and Rosie’s been playing well with the Marlies, even scoring some goals,” Wilson said.

“Colby brings a lot of positives. That’s why we’ve had he and (fellow injured Leaf) Dion Phaneuf in the room before games.”

Before Armstrong was hurt, the Leafs were 5-2-1.

Wilson insisted the chants to fire him that came from the crowd on Thursday night as the Oilers ran up the score have not shaken him.

“You don’t like to hear that, but it’s par for the course the way were playing right now. Fans have every right to say whatever they want.”

Kessel has not scored against Boston in seven games since the trade, with just one assist. He avoided media interviews a second straight day on Friday, but told the Toronto Sun on Wednesday that he and the team can’t get spooked again by the draft ramifications if the Leafs tumble to lottery pick status to aid the Bruins.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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