TORONTO - There were some lines being drawn in the sand in the Toronto dressing room over Monday’s semifinal clash between Canada and the U.S. in the world junior hockey championship, but the Leafs will have to come together if they want to get past the Northeast Division leading Boston Bruins.
The Leafs (14-19-4) host their division rival at the Air Canada Centre tonight but much of the talk after their Monday morning skate centered on what has become one of the biggest rivalries in international hockey.
“The U.S. right now is just as even in a lot of aspects of the Canadian hockey game and it’s a heck of rivalry right now,” said defenceman Luke Schenn, who won gold with Canada’s junior squad and whose brother, Brayden, will be trying to match the feat at this year’s tournament.
“It’s definitely going to be an exciting game,” Schenn added. “Hopefully the ACC gets an update every once in a while. I think their game is at 7:30, so maybe after our game we can catch some of it.”
Leafs forward Tyler Bozak, who played college hockey at the University of Denver, said he had some mixed emotions about the game.
“It’s tough for me. I’ve got a few buddies who are on the U.S. team, a couple of guys I played at college with,” Bozak said. “But also being from Canada, you gotta cheer for Canada, so hopefully Canada wins and those guys from Denver get a couple of points.
“Phil (Kessel) and Komo (Mike Komisarek), those U.S. guys obviously want the U.S. to win and we’ll stick by the Canadians.”
Even coach Ron Wilson, who was knows a little something about he U.S.-Canada rivalry, got in on the act.
“It’s a great rivalry and it’s too bad we have to play tonight so we can’t sit around and watch the game,” said Wilson, who coached the USA to silver at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. “I wish it was for the gold medal. I wish Canada had won against Sweden so it would set up a potential Canada-U.S. final.”
But never mind the world juniors, the Leafs are going to have to focus on the task at hand if they want to build on Saturday night’s 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Goalie James Reimer picked up the victory in that contest, his first NHL career start.
Somewhat surprisingly, Reimer will not be back in net for the Leafs, instead Wilson is turning to Jonas Gustavsson (5-12-2), who has done almost all the heavy lifting since No. 1 netminder J-S Giguere went down again with a nagging groin injury.
“I try not to look too far ahead and just try to break things down into small, small segments,” Reimer said about not getting the call again tonight. “It was the first minute (in Ottawa) I was worried about and then the first five minutes, the first shot, stuff like that so I didn’t even think about possible games.”
Boston (20-11-6) will be trying to end a three game losing skid as it wraps up a season-high five game road trip at the ACC. They Leafs for their part will be trying to make the most of final two games at home before heading out on a four-game western road swing.
Sniper Phil Kessel on the never-ending comparisons between himself and Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin, who the Leafs could have drafted had they not traded picks to obtain Kessel: “I got traded two years ago already, so I don’t know why we’re talking about it still. I answer (the questions) every time we play. What is this the ninth time we played them? I don’t really have anything to say about it.”
Leafs coach Ron Wilson on the disappointment of not beating Canada to win gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics: “Actually that was a great memory. We won a silver medal and there’s nothing to hang your head for about that.”