Leafs don't want to host Stamkos' party
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Lightning's Steven Stamkos (right) tries to avoid the check of the Leafs' Dion Phaneuf during NHL action last month in Tampa. (Mike Carlson/Reuters)
TORONTO - Steven Stamkos was nowhere to be seen on Thursday morning at the Air Canada Centre, but was certainly on the mind of the Maple Leafs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning skipped their morning skate after a 5-2 loss the night before in Montreal, to fully rest and concentrate for the Leafs, a team they hope to finish ahead of in the non-playoff NHL standings.
Stamkos will be gunning for 60 goals in front of his friends and family from the Toronto area. He was blanked on Wednesday, leaving him with 58.
“There was a lot of hype in Montreal, but Toronto is his hometown,” defenceman Luke Schenn warned. “He’ll be all fired up to play. It’s unbelievable to think what he’s done this year.
“He competes hard, and this year he’s scoring all different ways and from different angles, using his speed, shot and his one-timer. He plays against every team’s best defensive pairing and their top shut-down line and seems to get the job done every night.
"We have our work cut out for us.”
Cody Franson doesn’t want the Leafs to be a footnote to a Stamkos milestone.
“We have to limit his time and space so he doesn’t get it against us,” the defenceman said. “It’s pretty extraordinary that he’s making a push for 60 and we have to be aware of that.”
The Leafs held their last home-game skate at the ACC, took the team picture and had the injured Joffrey Lupul and Mikhail Grabovski in uniform. Lupul, whose absence with a separated shoulder the past month was the nail in the team’s playoff coffin, said he felt good to be back on skates and even participated in some drills. It was a difficult ending to a career year for the winger.
“It was extra tough because we were still in the midst of a playoff chase,” Lupul said. “It was tough to watch and definitely not the time of the year you want to go out of the lineup.
“But everything went wrong, you can’t blame it on one thing. What’s happening now and what will continue to happen is the media will single out that this guy didn’t do a good enough job, this guy didn’t do a good job leading, whatever. Fact of the matter is it’s a team game. If someone is having a tough night, someone else steps up. That’s what being a team is all about.
“We’re all going to take the same amount of blame and we deserve it. We had the team, we were in a good position, we didn’t get the job done. You can’t pinpoint one person. We all didn’t get the job done and we have to live with that.”
Ben Scrivens gets the start in goal again for the Leafs. Centre Joe Colborne was sent back to the Marlies on Thursday to make room for David Steckel’s return from a knee injury. Grabovski was grateful his knee wasn’t cut deeper by a skate blade on Saturday against the Sabres, but won’t play this week. He took somewhere between 20 or 30 stitches.
“The socks they make right now are very thin,” Grabovski said. “I didn’t know it was a bad cut, like a piece of filet mignon. But I have very fat skin.
“I tried skating today, but I still feel sore. I’ve had cuts before, but never one that I couldn’t play the game. Dion Phaneuf had the same thing last year, but it was more serious, (the blade) cut his muscle.”