Rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner continues to impress coach Ron Wilson, not just with his poise, but with his ability to log huge minutes in key situations.
Gardiner has topped 24 minutes in three of his past five games and is doing so almost effortlessly. In Wilson’s opinion, the key is Gardiner’s exceptional skating style.
“Jake just has one of those physiques that every once in a while find a guy who never seems to get tired,” Wilson said. “That’s just the genetics that he has.
“Jake uses his edges so well that he doesn’t get tired. He’s a great glider and (when you do that) you aren’t using as much energy as all. The great gliders of the game, in terms of the use of energy, you can’t really teach.”
Wilson said that Gardiner’s style has his feet perfectly aligned and that his technique compares to some of the better natural skaters in the game.
“Some of the guys who play 30 minutes (a game), they don’t give you 100% every shift. They pace themselves,” Wilson said. “I don’t see any of that pacing in Jake’s game.”
With three games in the next four nights, goaltender James Reimer knows he’s likely to get a night off (probably Saturday at home to Vancouver, though Wilson isn’t tipping his hand just yet.)
But would he prefer to play back-to-back?
“There are pros and cons to both,” Reimer said on Thursday.
“Playing back-to-back (with) one goalie, it is pretty tough. Obviously it’s doable, but if you have two good goalies and one is rested, it’s an advantage to go with the rested one.”
Given that Reimer has a 2-1 record against the Sabres and Jonas Gustavsson is 0-3-2, the best bet is to see Reimer in Friday and Monday at home versus Los Angeles.
“That’s a decision to be made in the morning,” Wilson said. “We’ve got three games in four nights and they’re all difficult. I haven’t figured out a rotation yet.”
NO PAIN, NO GAIN
Winger Colby Armstrong felt less pain in his ankle following Thursday’s practice but figures it’s going to take some time before he feels 100%.
“I’m dealing with some scar tissue breaking down but I was glad to bounce back,” Armstrong said. “I’m cleared to go, so I’m going to go hard.”
The challenge for Armstrong is to pace himself in practice because he knows he has only one gear come game time.
“I may dial it back for the time being in practice,” Armstrong said.
“In a game, I have to go hard. As soon as they let me go, I’ve been pumped to be in the lineup.”
Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul didn’t have to wait long for a chance to make up for his late penalty Tuesday that led to Carolina’s overtime-forcing goal.
On the first shift of overtime, Lupul had the shot and rebound pass to Tim Connolly to give the Leafs the OT win.
“If you make a mistake, you definitely want to atone for it as best you can,” said Lupul, who was sent off for high sticking. “That was the ideal situation, coming right on the ice and end up scoring. The penalty was just a little careless, but I definitely wanted to try to make amends.”