Two losses were enough to bring some changes to the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup.
One big shift comes as the result of a return from injury, as Tyler Bozak will reassume the top line centre spot against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday after missing seven games with an upper body injury.
James Reimer, meanwhile, will get back in goal for the first time since New Year's Eve, ending a run of six consecutive starts for Jonas Gustavsson during which he went 4-2-0 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
Also back in the lineup will be rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner, who had been sitting as a healthy scratch the past four games.
Add in a minor injury to fourth liner Darryl Boyce, who wasn't at practice and won't play Tuesday, and the Leafs will look quite a bit different than they did during Saturday's 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers.
"I'm just happy to be back with such good players again," Bozak said of returning to a line with scoring leaders Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. "It shows their confidence in me. I'm confident. I was only off 14 days or something like that so it shouldn't be a huge problem."
"He's earned that position with the way he's played with those guys this year," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "Bozie's played so well in substituting for Timmy [Connolly]"
As for Reimer, he made it clear that sitting out the last two-plus weeks hasn't been a problem for him.
"Ron makes the decisions which he thinks are best for the team," Reimer said. "Anytime you're not playing, obviously it's frustrating in the sense that you want to be out there, you want to be helping the team.
"But in that circumstance I knew my role which was just to support Monsty and support the team and have a good attitude. That's what I tried to do. Whatever decision he makes, I'm happy with. It was no big deal."
"He deserves to get back in there," Wilson said.
- Wilson added that the part of Bozak's game that has really improved over last year is defensively. Add in the fact he wins faceoffs at a much better rate than Connolly and there's another reason for the switch.
- Speaking of Connolly, Wilson intimated after practice that he's battling a minor injury that has hurt his faceoff numbers. He's down to 47.1 per cent, last among the team's regular faceoff takers. (Connolly has generally struggled on the draw in his career.)
- Wilson wouldn't reveal who would come out on the blueline to make room for Gardiner. My guess is Aulie, but we'll see.
- Injured Leafs' John-Michael Liles and Colby Armstrong both skated before practice as they try and return from concussions. It was the first time on the ice for Liles since suffering the injury. "They could be a week away," Wilson said.
- It's gone a little bit under the radar, but the Leafs have taken hardly any penalties in 2012 so far, with just six shorthanded situations in their last five games. Wilson said there's been a push to not take stick fouls - and slashing calls in particular.
"Most of the fouls in our league are stick fouls," he said. "Some of the slashes that you used to be able to do, down on a guy's stick, his stick breaks now because of the way they're made and you get a penalty. We're trying to avoid those silly slashing penalties. When sticks are on the ice, we're coming up under. You're not going to break any sticks doing that."
- And finally, here's Wilson on the Senators, one of the surprises in the league right now as they sit in fifth in the East: "They've very confidence. [Erik]Karlsson's really developed into one of the top defencemen in the league probably quicker [than expected] Everybody knew he was going to be good, but to play the way he has been this year is probably a bit of a surprise.
"I think Sergei Gonchar didn't have a very good year last year, but he's found his groove. Jason Spezza's been very consistent and playing like the player he can be. And it's show also in the play of Milan Michalek, who was one of my favourite players in San Jose. He plays hard at both ends, he's good defensively and this year, Spezza and he seem to have some chemistry and he's scored a lot of goals.
"We always thought he would. He's playing to his full potential this year, so you got to give the coach there a lot of credit for that."
Projected lineup (defence pairings are a best guess)
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Lombardi - Connolly - Kadri Crabb - Steckel - Brown
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf Gardiner - Schenn Franson - Komisarek