Forechecking helps Leafs

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:40 PM ET

It didn’t take long to see what the Maple Leafs’ strategy was to combat the Bruins on Tuesday night: An aggressive forecheck, something the team will need to continue if it wants to be competitive on the road.

“I thought we got in on the puck, but not only did we get in on it, we finished hits,” Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur said. “I think when you do that, they start turning pucks over. Any defence is going to do that.

“That’s something we’re going to have to do (Wednesday in Buffalo).”

The Leafs, meanwhile, are hoping to keep up the strong play in February, which is shaping up to be by far their strongest month of the season.

Prior to Wednesday’s game, the Leafs had a 5-2-1 record for the month, good for 11 points and still have five more contests before the calendar turns to March. The previous high was the 13 points they accumulated in January.

TAPE TO TAPE

Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek revealed the secret to Phil Kessel’s two-goal breakout game against the Bruins: The switch from white tape on his stick to black.

“Maybe I should try that too,” Komisarek said with a laugh prior to Wednesday’s game against the Sabres. “It was nice to see (Kessel) get on the scoreboard and turn down the temperature a little bit,” Komisarek said. “We had some nice jump in Boston.”

Kessel’s pair gave him 21 on the season and more importantly snapped a 14-game goalless drought, the longest since the pair of 15-gamers he had in his rookie season.

MILLER TIME

It caused a little fuss in Buffalo earlier in the week, but Ryan Miller professed himself fresh and ready for the Leafs after taking a night off on Tuesday in Montreal. Miller, who had started 31 consecutive games, didn’t even dress against the Habs.

“When you start a lot of games in a row, you put a lot of time into it mentally,” Miller said Wednesday before returning to action against the Leafs. “It’s just nice to check out.

“I think ideally you want a few more breaks, you want to have a certain energy in your game. It’s a fine balance at times. You want the rhythm and not the rust.”

ODDS ARE ...

How big is the NHL trade deadline getting? Well, you can now bet on what might happen. Online wagering house Bodog.com is offering a few prop bets of interest:

How many trades will take place on Feb. 28 itself? (Over/under 251/2).

How many players will be involved in trades on Feb. 28? (Over/under 461/2).

And this one for Leafs fans: Will defenceman Tomas Kaberle be traded? (Pick ’em).

LOOSE LEAFS

With his two-goal night on Tuesday, Grabovski rocketed into the top 20 in league goal-scoring. In fact, his career-high 24 prior to the Sabres game had Grabovski tied for 15th in the NHL ... The Sabres began a six-game home stand against the Leafs ... In his first three games since being recalled from the Marlies, big defenceman Keith Aulie has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time. In his 12 previous games he topped the 20-minute mark just once ... Lost in the two-goal performances from Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski on Tuesday was a pair of assists by captain Dion Phaneuf and forward Joffrey Lupul, his first two as a Leaf ... As planned, Jean-Sebastien Giguere got the start in net on Wednesday. Meanwhile, six of James Reimer’s seven career wins have come on the road.


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