Crabb confidence high for Leafs return
TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
|Joey Crabb celebrates a goal at practice last March. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency)
NEWARK N.J. - Nice timing for Joey Crabb.
The Maple Leafs forward will make his 2011-12 NHL regular-season debut on Wednesday night after tearing up the AHL, just as Martin Brodeur returns to the New Jersey Devils net.
“My confidence is high right now,” said Crabb, who had 15 points (seven goals and eight assists) in nine games with the Toronto Marlies. “Things worked out well down there. I wanted to stay (with the Leafs) out of camp, but it did not work out that way. It’s nice to get the chance now.”
Crabb will take the spot of the demoted Matt Frattin on the right wing on a line with centre Tyler Bozak and Matthew Lombardi.
“I want him to do what he did last year — generate on the forecheck, finish his check,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “I’m not saying I’m expecting him to score at the rate he was in the American league, just contribute any way he can.
“He has earned his return. It was a no-brainer if we were going to put Frattin down, he would be back up.”
Jonas Gustavsson will make his fifth start in a row in the Leafs net. Wilson hopes James Reimer, who practised hard in the morning, can back up on Wednesday night and start on Thursday night in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.
Gustavsson has a 2-1-0 career record against the Devils with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
Reimer has been suffering concussion-like symptoms since Montreal’s Brian Gionta hit him in the head in a game on Oct. 22.
Defenceman Jake Gardiner, who indicated he is nursing a bruised right ankle, said he will be in the lineup against the Devils.
Brodeur, meanwhile, has recovered from suffering a shoulder injury on Oct. 13.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Brodeur said. “For me, it is the start of something new.
“It brings a good challenge for our club to play against the Leafs. They are doing well in our conference.”
Devils coach Peter DeBoer figured Brodeur will provide a boost just by appearing in the crease.
“Definitely an emotional and spiritual lift seeing him back on the ice and ready to play,” DeBoer said. “I looked at the stats page and there is a big differential between their leading scorers and ours. We have to play a really tight defensive game, try to contain their speed.”
Brodeur’s 1,134 games played are the most for a goaltender in the history of the NHL.
At 39, Brodeur is not getting any younger, but the Leafs think he will be a challenge just the same.
“It’s hard with him,” Bozak said. “He is like Tim Thomas (of the Boston Bruins). Not the traditional butterfly style. Sometimes it looks like he is giving you a lot of the net, and then it is gone right away.”