Leafs gearing up for Los Angeles

Phil Kessel at a recent Leafs practice on Dec. 15 Toronto. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI AGENCY)

Phil Kessel at a recent Leafs practice on Dec. 15 Toronto. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI AGENCY)

Lance Hornby, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 3:53 PM ET

The Maple Leafs, fighting to stay above the water line for a playoff spot, are changing their lines around for Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings.

While there might not be a hotter line in the NHL today than Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak, coach Ron Wilson is concerned about their lapses on defence and will replace Bozak with Tim Connolly. Lupul, meanwhile, was a minus three in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Canucks and Kessel can be far too loose with the puck.

“They’ve scored a lot of goals, but been on the ice for a lot of goals,” Wilson said Sunday. “We’re getting more of the (forward line) look we expected earlier in the season. Timmy’s pretty healthy now. I don’t think we’ll change the power play because Bozie is doing a great job there. But (with Connolly at centre) they’ve played together six times and they were really successful and so were we as a team.

“It’s just a chance to find a little bit more of balance in our scoring and balance in our defence.”

The fallout of these moves will see Bozak moved back with Matt Frattin and Colby Armstrong, the latter sitting out Sunday’s practice with a sore foot. Joey Crabb was in Armstrong’s spot on Sunday. In another attempt to give Nikolai Kulemin a lift, Wilson will once more place him with Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski.

“We’re not winning a lot lately (2-5-1) so things have to change up,” Bozak said. “Hopefully, this gets us back in the win column.”

James Reimer starts in goal, after he and Jonas Gustavsson were lit up five times in back-to-back losses to Buffalo and Vancouver. Reimer has a bit of an excuse, with Toronto’s last-place penalty killing unit saving its worst games for his starts. Of his 31 goals against, 13 were with the Leafs down a man.

“It hasn’t been the greatest, but I’m partly responsible for that as one of the guys on the ice,” Reimer said.

With centre David Steckel still not at practice with a touch of bronchistis, the Leafs might go with seven defencemen again on Monday.

The Kings represent an excellent chance to get back on track for the Leafs, at the end of their Eastern trip that saw coach Terry Murray axed and Darryl Sutter hired, with John Stevens filling in until the trip ends.

 


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