Wilson demands D from all

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach, Ron Wilson. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach, Ron Wilson. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:57 PM ET

Funny thing, Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson says he feels confident having any of his forward lines on the ice when it comes to their competence at playing the defensive side of the puck. Yet, at least to start Thursday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild, he had split up Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel, his top two scorers, in an attempt to improve the team defensively.

Lupul and Kessel, incidentally, were on the ice for two of Ottawa’s even-strength goals in a 3-2 loss to the Senators on Tuesday, including an awful one with eight seconds to go in the first period. But Wilson wasn’t blaming himself for having the pair on the ice when really a checking line should have been out there to protect the Leafs’ 2-0 lead.

“You could say it was a coaching mistake, but I expect everyone on our team to get the job done defensively,” Wilson said after the Leafs’ morning skate on Tuesday. “It’s not the forwards, we’re concerned about having the right D on the ice and the other night we had the right pair on the ice and (Ottawa) found a way to put the puck in.”

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

Speedy forward Matthew Lombardi, who was getting a taste of life on the top unit in place of Lupul on Thursday against the Wild, says he doesn’t have too much trouble melding with players he hasn’t skated with before since they all know each other’s tendencies.

“We’ve been together as a group all year, we know each other pretty well,” Lombardi said of taking top-line duties. “Obviously we haven’t played much with each other but you see each other in practice every day and watch each other in games, so we kind of know each other’s tendencies. Just keep it simple off the bat and build off that.”

TOOL TIME

Nazem Kadri, who found himself watching the 3-2 loss to the Senators from the press box, got a vote of confidence from new linemate Lupul after the morning skate.

“Naz has a ton of skill,” Lupul said. “Right when he came up, his first five or six games, he was really, really noticeable and creating chances. He proved he can make plays at this level, now it’s just a matter of doing it every night, which is a tough thing for a young guy. But all the tools are there.”

Kadri, for his part, said he is just trying to stay positive and work hard.

“I don’t know if it bothered me, I think maybe it adds a little fuel to the fire. Cause, you know, you don’t want it to happen again,” Kadri said of being sent down. “But I understand the same as everyone else that this is a deep hockey club, we have some good players on this team and not everyone is going to be given a chance to play. I’m not going to complain, I’m just going to try to work hard and fit in any way possible.”

Kadri, who was to skate on a line with Lupul and Tim Connolly against the Wild, was a healthy scratch when Wilson opted to add some muscle, in the person of Jay Rosehill, to the lineup against the Senators.

LUPUL PHILOSOPHICAL

Sometimes a change is as good as a rest, or so the saying goes. But Lupul wasn’t exactly pleased about being bumped off the top line, even if only temporarily, on Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild, because he knows it means not all is well with the Leafs.

“It means you’re losing,” he said when asked about the change. “If we were winning every game, maybe there wouldn’t be any change. But that’s just how it is. Other than maybe like (Vancouver’s) Sedin brothers, I think everyone gets their lines mixed up once in awhile to jump-start the team.”


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