Leafs psyched for Senators

The Maple Leafs celebrate their shootout win in St. Louis Thursday night. They face the Ottawa...

The Maple Leafs celebrate their shootout win in St. Louis Thursday night. They face the Ottawa Senators in Saturday's annual Hall of Fame Game at the Air Canada Centre. (REUTERS)

Lance Hornby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:53 PM ET

TORONTO - The Maple Leafs hope Doug Gilmour can lift them one more time, that Joe Nieuwendyk’s presence means another big faceoff win and that Ben Scrivens has a little bit of Ed Belfour’s fire.

With Gilmour headlining three Leafs and former Marlie junior Mark Howe at Saturday’s Hockey Hall Of Fame Game, Toronto’s bench should be higher than the CN Tower to face the Ottawa Senators. Any Battle of Ontario is special, but with former captain Gilmour, the club’s franchise playoff scoring leader, being honoured pre-game, it’s hard to imagine the Leafs would come out as flat as the past two home games, a combined 12-1 mashing.

“That’s why I love playing in Toronto, a night like this,” said the rookie Scrivens, told of the pre-game ceremony when a pantheon of Hall greats welcome the new members at centre ice.

The normally staid Air Canada Centre will have a chance to recognize a former captain who represents the Leafs’ closest brush with the Stanley Cup in 44 years, the goalie they rode to their last conference final and a player instrumental in their last playoff appearance in 2004. Howe won a Memorial Cup with the Toronto Marlboroughs before a 20-year NHL career. So coach Ron Wilson wouldn’t think of leaving his guys in the room for fear the extended show is a distraction.

“I always think our players should participate, not sit in the room rocking back and forth,” Wilson said. “At least watching this and knowing the history of the game, not just the Leafs going in, but all the other Hall of Famers.

“It’s cool for me. Seeing a guy such as Marcel Pronovost who grew up playing with my dad (Larry) and uncle (Johnny), we always have a nice greeting on the bench.”

But it will quickly be down to business and quite simply, the Leafs can’t afford to start Saturday as they played recently at home or ended Thursday in St Louis. A 2-0 lead on the Blues would have vanished completely had Scrivens not stiffened his spine, stopped 38 shots and preserved the two points in the shootout.

“Step on a banana peel and it’s a chain reaction through your lineup,” Wilson said. “We kind of allowed it to happen and it becomes a pattern. It started in the second period. We didn’t get pucks going in the right direction as quickly as we wanted. We got hemmed in and couldn’t get a grip.”

Unlike the past two home games, however, the goaltending held up, thus Scrivens should start ahead of Jonas Gustavsson. Scrivens, who will likely exchange a quick hello with fellow Cornell University grad Nieuwendyk, hopes to atone for allowing seven goals at the ACC. On the road, he’s stopped 76 of 79 in wins in Columbus and St. Louis.

“No co-relation,” Scrivens said. “I had two pretty good half-exhibition games at home. Sometimes you do get those rinks that haunt you a bit. (In college) it was St. Lawrence University. I think I got pulled three straight years there. But my senior year, we tied 1-1. I counted that as a win because I played the whole 65 minutes and exorcised those demons a little bit.”

As they will for every encounter in this year’s Battle of Ontario, the Sens have to play the night before. That didn’t help Oct. 8 when the Leafs almost blew a huge lead, or Oct. 30 in Ottawa, which pulled out a 3-2 win.

“They’re within shouting distance of us, so we have to respect them,” Wilson said of a six-point gap prior to Friday’s Ottawa-Buffalo game. “The points are huge for us right now. It doesn’t matter who we play.”

Defenceman Mike Komisarek was away from practice Friday, getting a slashed hand x-rayed and Joffrey Lupul departed after 25 minutes with what could be a similar injury after replays showed him getting hacked in St. Louis. But Wilson expects both to play and is not contemplating using Colton Orr or Jay Rosehill as insurance in case the battle becomes a real battle.

“We’ll go with the fastest, quickest lineup and play our game,” he said.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca

 

 


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