The towering left-winger, who had been filling in at centre during the absence of pivots Tyler Bozak, David Bolland and Nazem Kadri, broke a five-game pointless streak with two goals as the Toronto Maple Leafs
defeated the Buffalo Sabres 4-2
in the second half of back-to-back games. The Sabres beat Toronto 3-1
Friday in Buffalo.
"I feel a little more comfortable playing the wing, but that said I felt like I was solid in my own zone and in the last couple of games I started creating chances while playing centre," van Riemsdyk said. "It's the repetition of playing wing that you like. I was disappointed with how I played at centre. I gave it my all there, but whatever the team needs me to do to win games, that's what I've got to do."
Van Riemsdyk had been among the NHL's leading scorers
until slipping into a bit of a funk. He was relieved to score the two goals.
"You'd like to score every time you are out on the ice so any time you don't do that, that is what you are shooting for," he said. "You want to contribute and that is the way I can contribute the best. I've got to go to those areas to get my goals. Any time you are struggling offensively you try to simplify things and get to the dirty areas to tip pucks and get second whacks at it. I thought we did that well tonight."
For van Riemsdyk that means the front of the net and that is precisely where he was standing when he scored his eighth
goals of the season; both on tips of Cody Franson shots from the point.
The Maple Leafs dropped all three games on a road trip that concluded with a defeat in Buffalo Friday night and had lost four of their last five.
Scott, McLaren get the boot
Buffalo enforcer John Scott was ejected from the game at 5:34 of the third period along with Toronto's Frazer McLaren after a fracas that started when Scott lined up Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf for a big open ice hit, but missed. Phaneuf, who fell to avoid the hit, said afterwards that he lost an edge. That being the case, it was his good fortune.
Toronto tough guy Colton Orr went after Scott and was followed by McLaren, who tossed the big Sabre to the ice. Scott and McLaren were each assessed double minors for roughing and 10-minute misconducts which got them out of the game.
Fraser injured... again
Defenceman Mark Fraser left the game at 15:45 of the first period and did not return. Coach Randy Carlyle said he has a lower body injury and would not say if it is related to the knee injury that caused him to miss 13 games. Fraser returned to the lineup Nov. 8. Carlyle said the injury is day-to-day.
Another first rounder
The Maple Leafs acquired
centre Peter Holland
and right winger Brad Staubitz from the Anaheim Ducks for minor league defenceman Jesse Blacker and a draft pick. The addition of Holland, drafted 15th overall by the Ducks in 2009, brings to 10 the number of first round picks on the Maple Leafs. The others include goalie Jonathan Bernier, Phaneuf, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner and forwards Joffrey Lupul, van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel.
Staubitz, who has played 230 NHL games with San Jose, Minnesota, Montreal and Anaheim, has 10 goals and 21 points in the NHL. The 29-year-old was assigned to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Holland, 22, has five goals and seven points in parts of three seasons with Anaheim, including a goal in four games this year. Holland, by the way, was given a couple of nifty wingers to work with in his first game as a Maple Leaf: JVR and Kessel.
"I was impressed with him," van Riemsdyk said. "I think he's a really heady player who thinks the game well. He is a responsible player and I'm sure it was a long day for him, getting here this afternoon and then playing on Hockey Night in Canada. Again, I thought he played a good game."
Holland said he woke up in Manchester to a phone call from Anaheim general manager Bob Murray who informed him of the trade.
"I was pretty speechless for a couple of seconds," Holland said. "I was glad he was doing most of the talking."
Holland was thrilled to be playing on a line with two marquee players.
"It is obviously pretty exciting to be placed with JVR and Phil," he said. "They are two special players so to step in the line with those two was pretty fun. I thought we created some chances. JVR had a good night with two goals and Phil couldn't capitalize on a few chances unfortunately."
Coach Carlyle gave Holland the thumbs up after the game.
"I thought he did pretty good in the game," Carlyle said. "I mean it's like we tried to hide him in the lineup. We put him in a position to play with Kessel and van Riemsdyk. That's what we believe in; if you acquire players or have young players it wouldn't be right to put them in a non-offensive situation.
One of the reasons the Maple Leafs were interested in Holland is because when their top three centres return to action, he does not have to pass through waivers if he is assigned to the Marlies.
Clarkson makes impact
Right-winger David Clarkson
has now gone 10 games without scoring for the Maple Leafs, but he played a solid gritty game against the Sabres. Clarkson had a couple of good scoring chances in the first period to go with two hits. In the second period he crushed Buffalo defenceman Jamie McBain with a hit against the boards and shortly afterwards fought Sabres captain Steve Ott. Clarkson was knocked down early in the bout but got back up and gave a good account of himself much to the delight of the home crowd.
Cool with Kulemin
Hard-working right-winger Nikolai Kulemin scored his first goal of the season and his first since last April 4. It was Kulemin's eighth game of the season. He missed 11 with a broken foot.
4 out of 6 ain't bad
Coach Carlyle felt his team out-played Buffalo for the most part over the two-game series.
"What I do is try to evaluate the six periods and we played four pretty good ones so that is what we're going to take away," Carlyle said. "This one wasn't high on artistic value, but it's two points and we'll move on and get ourselves ready for Tuesday."
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