Reimer to start in net against Pens
DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
|Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer is backed up into his net by the Ottawa Senators in the first period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto Jan. 17, 2012. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)
It looks like James Reimer is getting another shot in net.
Reimer will be making just his second start of 2012 after the Maple Leafs blew a three-goal lead in the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.
Besides having the Manitoba native between the pipes, the Leafs will also have a bit more of the veteran presence in their lineup on Wednesday night to make sure another collapse doesn’t occur when the two teams meet for the second half of their back-to-back series at the Air Canada Centre.
Gritty forward Colby Armstrong and experienced defenceman John-Michael Liles will be rejoining the Leafs after both players missed significant amounts of time with injuries.
“I had a good workout yesterday, I feel really good,” the 31-year-old Liles said after the Leafs optional morning skate on Tuesday. Liles missed 16 games with what was thought to be a concussion but the defenceman has recently described the injury as neck related.
“I feel good enough to play. You’re out for this long, it’s really tough to know what 100% feels like sometimes, but I feel like I’m good enough to get back in a game and hopefully help the team.”
To make room for Armstrong and Liles in the lineup, 21-year-old forward Nazem Kadri and 22-year-old defenceman Keith Aulie have been sent down to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
In his most recent stint with the Leafs since being called up from the Marlies on Dec. 22, Kadri recorded four goals and an assist in 16 games. But three of those goals were in his first four games and he has been mostly offensively ineffectual since then, though he was a plus-3.
The 6-foot-6, 217-pound Aulie was called up on Nov. 27, recording one assist and a minus-3 rating in 15 games.
Armstrong, meanwhile, is back in the lineup after missing 18 consecutive games with concussion issues. Prior to that he had a foot injury and has only played in nine games this season.
“They have me in the lineup tonight, back at home, so hopefully I can help us get two points tonight,” the 29-year-old said. “I’ve been on the IR already a couple of times this season, so you just have to be patient. I did everything I could to be as ready as fast as I could after my head was good. I’m ready to go now and I couldn’t wait to get back in for a while now, so I’m excited.”
Coach Ron Wilson was not around Tuesday morning to field questions from the media regarding his team blowing that 4-1 lead to Pittsburgh, but at this time of the year Toronto can’t afford to squander such a good cushion and have what appeared to be two sewn-up points turn into just one for losing in the shootout.
“Those are the games you have to close out,” Liles said. “Not to take anything away from t, they are a great team, but those are games we’ve got to win. You know, it’s something we’ll learn from and move forward. We can’t dwell on it, we play them again tonight at home and hopefully we’ll have a better result.”
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson can’t really be blamed for the loss, it was more of a team meltdown and the tying goal by Penguins star Evgeni Malkin was a fluke, but the Swede did let in a least one very questionable goal and now Reimer gets another chance to prove he should get more starts, though the Leafs may have called on him regardless of the result in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
“They are a great team and they have a lot of skill and they play a great team-game too. We’ve got to be ready for them tonight. For me, I’m just going to try to stand in there and work my butt off and do what I can to give these guys (his teammates) a chance.”
After tonight’s game, the Leafs are back on the road to face Ottawa on Saturday.