January 22, 2013
Leafs' Jake Gardiner may face Sidney Crosby's Penguins
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner could be in the lineup with they take on the Penguins on Wednesday. (QMI Agency/Files)

TORONTO - For Randy Carlyle, there is a lesser of two evils when it comes to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

The Maple Leafs coach knows quite well his team could have its hands full with the Pittsburgh Penguins superstars on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. But it’s Crosby who is the undisputed leader of the Penguins, Carlyle thinks.

“I think that Crosby leads their team by example,” Carlyle said on Tuesday after the Leafs practised at the MasterCard Centre.

“I don’t think there is a better capsule of that than when you watch him play night in and night out. He has a dogged work ethic on the puck, he has a skill set that is special. But he separates himself with his ability to work and out-work his opposition.

“Malkin is a big strong guy who is very skilled, and not to say that he does not work hard, but I don’t think you can compare the two when they demonstrate the things they do on the ice.”

The Leafs could have defenceman Jake Gardiner in the lineup. The 22-year-old is waiting to make his season debut in the NHL after suffering a concussion on Dec. 8 while playing for the Toronto Marlies.


Gardiner practiced with his teammates for the first time.

“We could use the offensive and the puck-carrying ability,” Carlyle said. “He is a special player. When he tells us he is ready, I would say we would probably find a spot for him in the lineup.”

And what does Gardiner think?

“I feel pretty good,” Gardiner said. “I was just excited to get back out there. Love the game of hockey and I want to get back and play.”

The betting is that Korbinian Holzer will be returned to the Marlies when Gardiner gets back in the lineup. Mark Fraser might be another candidate to go to the minors. Carlyle reiterated he will carry eight defencemen, so as long as all are healthy, two will sit every game.

Carlyle wants to see more from forward James van Riemsdyk, who has been on the periphery in the first two games. Van Riemsdyk could play on a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin on Wednesday, with Clarke MacArthur playing with Nazem Kadri. Carlyle had that first trio together at practice for power-play purposes.

Kadri was on the first power-play unit with Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel.

“I see a guy who is in between,” Carlyle said of van Riemsdyk. “There are some things we would like him to change and we’re going to make sure he is well aware of those things. He has to go into the dirty areas. That’s one of things we are going to ask him. He is a big man who can go to the front of the net. He has soft hands around the net, we want to see him drive the puck that area, push people off the puck. I would not say he is overly aggressive player, but he has a big body and skill and he can score goals.”

Said van Riemsdyk: “I think I am thinking a little bit too much out there right now and taking away from some of the instincts I have. It is all part of learning the new system and playing with different players. Just keep working hard like I have been and good things will start happening.”

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