Leafs add muscle, grit for Bruins

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:56 PM ET

TORONTO - Never mind that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The Maple Leafs are going to give it a shot.

With three shutout losses in their past six games, and six in their past 16, the Leafs are holding their breath that an injection of spirit into the lineup, via Colby Armstrong and Jay Rosehill, will result in pucks going into the opposition’s net.

When the Leafs play host to the Boston Bruins on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre, Armstrong will return from a 16-game absence that was caused by a finger injury. Rosehill has been summoned from the Toronto Marlies for the first time this season, with Joey Crabb sent back to the minors.

“I’m going to go to the net and try to get some ugly goals,” said Armstrong, who has scored once in eight games. “We have been held off the board in six games, but it has to turn for us. I have been watching a lot of games lately and it is tough.”

How will Armstrong adjust after having not played since Oct. 26?

“I have been wondering about that,” said the Saskatchewan native, who turned 28 during the time he was on the shelf. “We’ll see. You don’t know until you get into it. I was nervous for (Saturday night) a few days ago.”

Coach Ron Wilson, whose club has to start getting something from somewhere, knows that Armstrong has the ability to be a catalyst.

“It’s going to be a huge addition,” Wilson said. “Just watching him, he is excited to play, and he can forecheck and kill penalties.

“There are a lot of things he can do, and hopefully he can add spark to our offence as well.”

Armstrong will skate on a line with Phil Kessel, who has been dreadful against his former team, and Kris Versteeg. It’s not a coincidence that Armstrong will play with the two guys who carry the worst plus-minus marks among Leafs forwards (Versteeg is minus-10, Kessel a minus-7).

“I’ve always been able to play a hard-nosed game and try to help out at both ends of the ice,” Armstrong said. “I am getting a chance to play with Steeger and Phil, some pretty good players, and hopefully we can just get it done and help each other in all aspects of the game.”

Kessel, the guy who is supposed to make the Leafs’ offence go, didn’t bother making himself available to reporters following practice on Friday at the MasterCard Centre.

Rosehill played in 15 games for the Leafs last season, managing to contribute a goal and an assist as he piled up 67 penalty minutes. With the Marlies this season, Rosehill had four goals, three assists and 53 penalty minutes in 20 games.

For the 25-year-old, it’s about playing along the edge between smart physical play and taking penalties. If he can accomplish the former, the hope is the Bruins defencemen will back off a bit, thereby opening the ice up for other Leafs forwards.

“It’s all relative with momentum shifts,” Rosehill said. “I have been champing at the bit to get up. I think I am getting used to it, just going out there and finishing my checks and getting in on the forecheck.

“Everyone has a role for a reason. Not everyone is a goal-scorer.”

The Leafs don’t have many muckers, and the guy who does it best for them, winger Mike Brown, is gone for more than a month with a finger injury. Rosehill won’t have a better opportunity to demonstrate he deserves to stay.

“Because (Rosehill) is finishing checks, people are coming to challenge him, and we need a little bit more of that in our lineup,” Wilson said. “We don’t have anybody (else) who can step in and do what Brownie was doing.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

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