Toronto Maple Leafs
left-winger Joffrey Lupul
suffered a grade 2 groin strain in Monday's 6-0 home loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets and will not accompany the Leafs for the start of their three-game road trip, which opens in Pittsburgh Wednesday night.
Lupul left the Columbus game in the second period and did not return.
The 30-year-old, who missed two games last month with a bruised foot, has eight goals and seven assists in 22 games this season.
Lupul's status remains uncertain for when Toronto travels to Buffalo on Friday and Montreal on Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 6:30 p.m. ET).Leafs losing shots battle
Shoot the freakin' puck!
That has been the message from Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle to his players for just about the entire season, but it does not seem to be sinking in.
Perhaps Monday night's embarrassing 6-0 home loss
to Columbus -- not exactly a powerhouse opponent -- will help the players see the light. In that game the Maple Leafs managed only 18 shots on goal compared to 22 allowed against a team that should have been ripe for the picking.
Instead, the Maple Leafs were flat and unable to respond to the Blue Jackets, scoring two goals in 20 seconds midway through the first period to take what amounted to an insurmountable lead.
The Blue Jackets were playing without three of their premier offensive players -- Marian Gaborik, Nathan Horton and Brandon Dubinsky -- and yet they still managed to torch the Maple Leafs for six goals. Also missing was their toughest player, Jared Boll, which should have opened the door to Toronto's setting a physical tone to the game, but that didn't happen, either.
Shots on goal are not always an indicator of a team's overall performance, and in some ways that was the case Monday. Toronto managed to create plenty of offensive zone time, but -- as has been the case so often this season -- the Maple Leafs passed on good shooting chances to try for an even more perfect shot.
"We have got to find a way to get pucks on net, get in front of goalies and create opportunities," said right-winger David Clarkson. "We've got to get better and we have to learn from the Columbus game and get ready for the next."
Exactly how bad have the Maple Leafs been in the shots department this season?
In 24 games the Leafs have outshot the opposition just three times. In one other instance they tied the other team in shots.
You don't need to be a math major then to understand the Maple Leafs have been outshot 20 times. It gets worse. They have been outshot by 10 or more shots 12 times. They have been outshot by 20 or more shots five times, including Nov. 2 in Vancouver when they were outshot by 26 in a 4-0 loss.
At one point the Maple Leafs were outshot in 13 straight games and they have been outshot in each of the past five.
This is further complicated by the fact the Maple Leafs lead the NHL in giveaways with 301. That is 33 more than Edmonton, which ranks 29th.
It would be one thing if we were talking about a bunch of non-skilled plumbers, but the Maple Leafs have some exceptional offensive talent with the likes of Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, Mason Raymond, Clarkson, David Bolland, Nazem Kadri and even defencemen Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly. Getting pucks to the net should not be such an arduous problem.
Good goaltending has helped mask a lot of the Maple Leafs' concerns this season, so when James Reimer turned in a sub-par performance against the Blue Jackets, the Maple Leafs' weaknesses were exposed. Namely, not enough shots and not enough hard work.
"That's something that we have to focus on," Phaneuf said. "We didn't do enough to get pucks to the net and we talk about outworking teams and tonight we got outworked. We take pride in being a very hard-working team and tonight we didn't do enough."Message received?
Coach Carlyle has been warning about bad days ahead if the players don't buy into his system of puck control and more shots on goal. Maybe a 6-0 loss to Columbus will make it easier for the coach to sell his message.
"It don't think you go the route to say it's my way. It's our way," Carlyle said following practice Tuesday morning. "We believe there are some things we can do a lot better. Last night was a night when nothing seemed to go our way. Pucks slid off the end of our sticks...it bounced away from us. It seemed like we were a step behind in the game and they won all the one-on-one battles and we couldn't find a way to get into the dirty areas to get anything going for ourselves."Changes on D
Carlyle said he would consider placing defencemen Cody Franson and Mark Fraser together moving forward. They practiced together Tuesday.
"We're going into Pittsburgh and there's no secret whose there," Carlyle said. "So we have to make sure we're at the top of our game. What we're looking for from our group is a response."
Preparing for Crosby and company
Coming off a 6-0 loss and then having to face a supercharged offensive team like the Penguins with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal is a daunting prospect.
"I have played them a lot in my career and they're a skilled team," Clarkson said. "You've got to stay on them and you have to play them hard. You've got to finish your checks and play a hard-nosed game against them. We've got to be ready from the drop of the puck."
Defenceman Carl Gunnarsson, who along with his partner Phaneuf will likely see a lot of Crosby, is encouraged by their last meeting with Pittsburgh Oct. 26 in Toronto. The Maple Leafs won 4-1 and Crosby was held pointless.
"Last game we played them I think we played them pretty good and we're looking for a bounce back from last night," Gunnarsson said. "You've got to play tough on them and you can't give them any time because you know they're going to make plays."
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