Gardiner in Leafs lineup
Reimer in net to face visiting Jets
DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
|Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner will be in the lineup against the Jets tonight. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - The Maple Leafs confirmed smooth-skating rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner will get another shot at showing the organization what he’s made of when Toronto hosts the Winnipeg Jets Wednesday night.
Another player, Jonas Gustavsson, will have to wait at least one more game to get his.
The Leafs would not confirm exactly whom Gardiner will be knocking out of the lineup, only saying it would be a “game-time decision.”
There is a good chance, however, that it will be 6-foot-5 Cody Franson, who stayed out on the ACC ice during the morning skate a little longer than most, though nothing is written in stone.
“They said, 'You’re going, so be ready,' ” said Gardiner, who has been a spectator the past two games. “I’m just going to try to play with confidence, play my game.”
Coach Ron Wilson said he will try to give Gardiner a little more playing time against the Jets.
“He’s only played about 12.5 minutes (per game), we’ve got to give him a few more minutes so you notice him,” Wilson said after the morning skate.
There is stiff competition on the Leafs blue line this season, with Keith Aulie, who was a strong pairing with captain Dion Phaneuf down the stretch last season, already down on the AHL Marlies to get his game back in shape.
“We saw how (Gardiner) could play in exhibition (games) and he was probably our best defenceman,” blue-liner Luke Schenn said. “Obviously the regular season is a different thing, but we’ve got a bunch of guys here, and even some guys down in the American league, who can play, so there’s guys fighting for a job every night, especially on our backend. It’s obviously a great problem to have but it makes for great competition and it definitely pushes guys.”
One spot that seems sewn up, at least for the time being, is in goal. Coach Ron Wilson reiterated that James Reimer is the Leafs’ No. 1 guy and that the Manitoba native would be starting his fifth consecutive game tonight against Winnipeg. Reimer was not happy with his play against Colorado on Monday night, a 3-2 overtime loss, but Wilson said that didn’t factor in his decision.
“I was planning on playing him, anyway, regardless of whatever happened the other night,” Wilson said. “We haven’t had back-to-back games until tonight and tomorrow night and he deserves to play. We’re trying to off to a good start and he’s clearly our No. 1 goalie.”
Backup Gustavsson could get his first start of the year on Thursday night against Boston, when the Leafs head out on the road for a four-game trip.
“More than likely he’ll play tomorrow night and we have confidence that he can get the job done, but again, James is our No. 1 goalie and there’s a number of teams in the league who have played more games than us that have only used one goalie, so I don’t think it’s an issue.”
This is the first of four games between the Leafs (3-0-1) and the Jets (1-3-0) this season. The next time they meet is on New Year’s Eve, with Winnipeg hosting.