The sight of defenceman T.J. Brennan
on the ice for the Leafs' practice at MasterCard Centre Wednesday morning got some tongues wagging about the possibility of who comes out of the lineup for Thursday night's game in Nashville if he dresses.
Brennan was summoned to the Maple Leafs from the Toronto Marlies after being named the AHL's player of the week. Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle doesn't typically discuss such matters, but if he's looking for a little advice on the subject: Leave things status quo.
Yes, the Maple Leafs have had some struggles in the early going, particularly inside their own blue-line. And, yes, a few individuals have looked sketchy at times.
But the Maple Leafs are 3-1 for heaven's sake. If they were 1-3 then perhaps reaching for the panic button would not seem like such a bad idea. The temptation to pull a healthy player out of the lineup because you are unhappy with his play exists for coaches, but Carlyle said there are other factors at play, too.
"That goes part and parcel where you think your team is at," Carlyle said. "There's always a lot made out of certain individuals. There's always one guy that gets the 'X' on his back when your team game isn't as strong as we'd like it to be and the number of turnovers and giveaways we've had. I think we have a group of players that can improve and I'm not going to start to single individuals out at this point, four games into the season. We all know that we have to be better."
The player with the 'X' on his back at this stage of the year in some people's eyes is Paul Ranger
. The 29-year-old is making a comeback in the NHL after sitting out three years and playing last season in the AHL with the Marlies. Some just don't understand that it will take time for him to find his NHL legs and that when he does, the Maple Leafs will have a solid defender who can be effective at both ends of the ice. And they got him for free.
Ranger is certainly not the only Toronto defenceman to have struggled early. Teenager Morgan Rielly
was minus-3 in his NHL debut Saturday, but rebounded nicely in Tuesday's loss to Colorado
in his second game. Jake Gardiner
, a stud in last year's playoffs, has been inconsistent to date. Even the normally reliable Carl Gunnarsson
has had a few shifts he'd like to take back.
"We believe our group can play to a higher level," Carlyle said. "We give Paul Ranger the benefit of the doubt coming back off an absence from the NHL for a number of years as we do our younger players. If it's our older guys they might get a little bit more of a browbeating."
Carlyle said some fine tuning is required, and he was quite vocal at practice, reminding his players to engage their opponents. That was an issue for him against the Avalanche.
"We were in good position, but we weren't engaged in position," Carlyle said. "We were too loose in the defensive zone."Lupul out
Joffrey Lupul collided with P.A. Parenteau of the Avalanche Tuesday night and missed practice
Wednesday. He has a bruise in the lower calf area. There is some swelling and he took treatment for it before riding the stationary bike. He is listed as day-to-day and will make the trip to Nashville.Oh, baby!
Jay McClement said he didn't get much sleep Tuesday night. That's because he and his wife, Lesley, welcomed their first child, son Reid, into the family. McClement missed the game against Colorado.
"It was a special experience," McClement said. "The timing was tough. I definitely didn't want to miss a game, but it's something you don't want to miss. It's one of those life experiences that I'll never forget. As much as we planned to try to not miss any games, you can't fight mother nature sometimes."By the numbers
The Maple Leafs rank sixth in penalty killing at 93.3 per cent (two goals allowed on 15 chances) and 11th on the power play at 23.5 per cent (four-for-17). Toronto is 14th in goals for (13 in four games) and 10th in goals against (10).
The Maple Leafs rank 22nd in faceoff percentage at 45.5 per cent. By comparison, the Pittsburgh Penguins are best on the draw at 58 per cent.
Lupul, who has played left and right wing thus far, is ninth in NHL scoring with two goals and five points. Right winger Phil Kessel ranks second in shots with 24, one fewer than Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who has played one fewer game.
Defenceman Dion Phaneuf leads the Maple Leafs in average ice time per game at 25:55. That is 10th highest in the league.Called up from Marlies
Left winger David Broll, right winger Josh Leivo and Brennan. The 24-year-old Brennan had four goals and six points in two weekend games with the Marlies. He has played 40 games in the NHL with Florida and Buffalo, scoring four goals and 11 points.Returned to Marlies
Left winger Jamie Devane, centre Trevor Smith.Ex-Leafs Watch
Right winger Matt Frattin, traded along with goalie Ben Scrivens to Los Angeles for goaltender Jonathan Bernier, has two assists in three games with the Kings. He is minus-4. Scrivens has played 14 minutes in relief of Jonathan Quick and stopped all five shots he faced.
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