The Toronto Maple Leafs hope to stay in the win column against the Minnesota Wild at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday after snapping a three-game losing streak last weekend in Detroit.
The Leafs got a large contribution from their bottom six group in the 5-2 victory over the Wings, but are hoping that their top two lines get on track at home, where they have not won since the season opener against Ottawa nearly two weeks ago.
“(We) have to build off last game and we have to keep on getting better.” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said after the morning skate. “There are a lot of things we have to be focused on and ready to go. We haven’t looked after home ice like we’d like to. We want to be automatic at home, you want the other team to know that it’s impossible to win in your building and that hasn’t been the case.”
Toronto will make only one lineup change in the first of back-to-back games, as Martin Marincin will take over the demoted Rasmus Sandin on the left side of the bottom pairing with Justin Holl. After playing only 11 games last season, Holl has found his way into the good graces of his head coach, playing four of the Leafs first six games.
“When he plays, there are no scoring chances against.” Babcock said. “(He will continue to play) as long as he plays simple, the puck gets out of our zone, he boxes out, and plays well defensively.”
The Leafs broke with the fourth line rotation, giving Nic Petan and Jason Spezza two straight games last week, but after Nick Shore scored and Dmytro Timashov registered two assists on Saturday, Babcock will give that unit along with Frederik Gauthier their first consecutive start.
As is the normal operating procedure for back-to-back games, Frederik Andersen will go in goal for Toronto against the Wild, and Michael Hutchinson will get his second start of the season against the Capitals on Wednesday. The Wild took the opposite approach in their back-to-back, as backup Alex Stalock made 26 saves in a shutout of the Sens on Monday and will go with their #1 Devan Dubnyk against the Leafs.
Leafs GM Kyle Dubas reportedly made a trip to Russia last week to scout some potential KHL free agents in advance of next summer. Reporter Igor Eronko indicated that Dubas met with former NHLers Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Nesterov.
Grigorenko, 25, played 217 games with Buffalo and Colorado after being drafted 12th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, was part of the package sent to Colorado to acquire Ryan O’Reilly in 2015, but left the Avs to return home in 2017. The 6’3”, 209 lb. center led CSKA Moscow with 52 points in 55 games and scored 21 points (13 goals, 8 assists) on the way to winning the Gargarin Cup.
Nesterov, 26, was a part time player for Tampa and Montreal on the blueline over three seasons, but scored 18 points (4 goals, 14 assists) in 41 games for CSKA Moscow last season.
Both players KHL contracts are up after this season and there are indications that the league may contract from 24 teams next season, which might mean an influx of Russian players back to North America.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicated last week that SKA St. Petersberg’s Alexander Barabanov is another KHLer that the Leafs have interest in and that Toronto is at the top of the 25-year-old winger’s list.
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