Leafs' D-men putting up points
DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
|John-Michael Liles looks up ice during Leafs practice at the Mastercard Centre in Toronto Jan. 30 2012. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)
Heading into their contest against the Washington Capitals Saturday night, Maple Leafs defencemen ranked third in the NHL for points, with 135. That's just a few back of the team's total production from the blue line all last season.
John-Michael Liles, who has been a nice addition to the Leafs' defence this season, says the forwards have to take some of the credit.
"Our forwards do a great job of drawing people to them and dishing it off and that allows us to chip in offensively," Liles said after the Leafs' morning skate Saturday.
"I think we have quite a few talented players on the back end, and it's a good thing to have."
Coach Ron Wilson said he would like to see even more production out of his blue-line corps.
"You've seen Jake (Gardiner) start to develop into what we thought he could bring to us offensively, and having Liles has added a lot. And that's helped Dion (Phaneuf) as well. I'd still like to see more offence from our back end and that's a process that we're going through right now."
The most significant development in Liles' career probably took place long before he ever reached the pro ranks.
The Michigan State University product originally started his hockey life as a forward but was moved to defence during his first year of high school.
"I wasn't a very good forward. They moved me back to D in the ninth grade and told me I wasn't going to play forward any more. Good coaching move," Liles said with a laugh. "I was a pretty bad forward, not great."
The move has worked out well for both Liles, now in his eighth for season as an NHLers, and the Leafs. Liles has been one of Toronto's strongest blueliners this season.
PUTTING THE BRAKES ON
They say speed kills, and the Leafs are certainly speedy. To help their cause, opposing teams recently have been trying to slow down Toronto to negate that advantage.
Against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, the Leafs managed only five shots on goal in the first period.
"It seems to be the way teams want to play us now," first-line forward Joffrey Lupul said. "Teams want to slow us down and turn it into one of these kind of grinding, boring-type games and San Jose did a good job of that. It's something we have to be prepared for. We might not get the 15, 20 scoring chances in a game, but we have to be ready to score when we get a chance. We also have to limit other teams' scoring chances."
Toronto also needs some secondary scoring. Second-line centre Mikhail Grabovski, tied for third on the team in goals with 18 heading into last night's contest, hadn't put the puck in the net in 11 contests, his longest goalless drought of the season.
BOYCE A BLUE JACKET
Different fates awaited forwards Jay Rosehill and Darryl Boyce on Saturday.
The Columbus Blue Jackets claimed Boyce off the waiver wire, while tough guy Rosehill cleared waivers and was sent down to the Marlies.
In 17 games with the Leafs this season, the 27-year-old Boyce had one goal and one assist and was a minus-3. He had spent his entire pro career with Toronto, splitting time between the Marlies and Leafs. The P.E.I. native had six goals and 15 points in 64 contests over three seasons with the Leafs.
Rosehill had no points and 21 penalty minutes in 16 games this season.
Both players were placed on waivers Friday.
The Leafs recalled forward Matt Frattin from the Marlies on Saturday.
Defenceman Mike Komisarek, who was a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive game last night, needs to play one more contest to reach 500 NHL career games. Wonder if he'll make it this season? He has now been a healthy scratch in nine of the past 11 games " ... After last night's contest, Wilson was just one game behind Pat Quinn's 1,400 games coached. The former Leafs bench boss is fourth on the career list. Wilson is No. 1 among active coaches.