BOSTON – Expect lineup changes Saturday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs try to improve their fortunes against the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of their NHL playoff series.
Some will be enforced. Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said Thursday that Michael Kostka was out with a broken finger, after taking a shot in the second period of Wednesday’s 4-1 loss, while fellow defenceman Cody Franson had a bruised foot courtesy of a Bruins shot.
Star forward Phil Kessel, who was one of several Leaf big guns missing in action Wednesday, was absent from practice Thursday in what was termed a “maintenance day.”
The last Leaf to have a maintenance day was first-line centre Tyler Bozak and that led to him sitting out the final two days of the regular season. But Kessel, who had just one shot on net Wednesday, said he was fine.
“I’ve got a couple of things to take care of and that’s about it,” said Kessel, who is not exactly a chatty Cathy.
The Leafs leading scorer reportedly got some treatment on his wrist during Wednesday’s game.
Boston will make at least one change, with defenceman Andrew Ference suspended for one game for an illegal check to the head of Toronto forward Mikhail Grabovski.
Carlyle made it clear that he plans to revamp his lineup, with either defencemen Ryan O’Bryne and Jake Gardiner possible additions.
“I would suggest that one of them or maybe both of them are going to play,” said Carlyle.
Asked about his forwards, the coach said: “There will be changes up front.”
Joe Colbourne, Ryan Hamilton and Matt Frattin are waiting in the wings, with question marks over Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr. Both tough guys were involved in a melee at the end of the game.
“I think the emotions and the chippiness have to be demonstrated in a positive way, not in a negative way as they were at the end of the game,” said Carlyle.
A few other forwards may be looking over their shoulder given their performance Wednesday.
“I just think we have to get more from our group,” said Carlyle. “From a work ethic standpoint and execution standpoint.”
While pointing the finger at his entire squad, the Toronto coach also credited Boston for its play.
“They played a hard-trapping game and they forced us to make some mistakes and we didn’t handle the pressure that they applied to us very well.”
Carlyle would like to see “a good first pass.” Avoiding turnovers would help too.
“We did a poor job in management of the puck in all three zones … Turnovers are an area that we have to improve in dramatically,” he said.
Despite Wednesday’s result, Thursday’s practice at a pocket-sized Boston University rink was light-hearted. Players hooted and tapped their sticks on the ice when assistant coach Scott Gordon lost his balance and slid into the end boards.
Captain Dion Phaneuf was among the last players in the final gathering at the boards with the coaching staff so had to do a lap around the ice before he could join in.
It was more serious, no doubt, beforehand in a meeting to go over what had gone wrong the night before.
“We really can’t change what we did (Wednesday) night,” said Carlyle. “We just have to again regroup, reset, refocus and get ourselves in the prep mode for Saturday.”
Despite being down one game, the Toronto coach refused to say Saturday will be a test of character different from any other in hockey.
“It’s not supposed to be an easy game,” he told a scrum bristling with cameras and packed with some 30 members of the media. “The game’s a tough game. There’s big men out there moving at a quick pace and you’re playing for keeps now.”
Toronto’s players, to a man, talked about how one game does not make a series. And how they need to do better.
“Sometimes you’ve got to flush it,” goalie James Reimer said of a bad night. “You learn from your mistakes, you go over it and you see what you did wrong. But there’s no point dwelling on it. The sun came up this morning. It’s a new day and we have a new opportunity on Saturday.”
“We feel we can play a lot better and we’re going to have to do that,” said Phaneuf.
“We know we need to be a lot better in a lot of different situations,” echoed Jay McClement.
Much has been made of the imbalance in experience between the battle-hardened Bruins and the playoff-staved Leafs. But Reimer played down the pressures of the post-season.
“The game is pretty much the same, it’s just a little more intense,” he said. “You’ve got to learn as a team how to handle that.”
The Bruins took the day off, although a few players and coach Claude Julien met the media at TD Garden.
They expect Toronto to make changes in a bid to up its game.
“They’re going to be a hungry team,” said winger Daniel Paille. “They’re not going to want to fall short like they did (Wednesday). For us, it’s important to match the effort because we know that they’re going to come a lot harder.”
And Julien counselled that there was still work to do.
“We know we played a better game (than the Leafs) but this is a seven-game series. It’s not a one-game winner takes all. So I don’t think there’s any reason to get overly excited or overconfident. There’s no doubt they’re going to make some adjustments to their game and we’ll have to adjust as well.”