When the Toronto Maple Leafs meet the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night, Randy Carlyle is demanding they show up a lot earlier than they did for their last game.
The Leafs head coach said after the game-day skate much more will be expected from his young charges. In their 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, Carlyle said the Leafs did not start competing hard until the game was almost over, something that cannot happen against the Sabres even though the visitors are still reeling from Wednesday’s firing of long-time head coach Lindy Ruff.
“We have to find a way to demonstrate that [tenacity] earlier in the hockey game,” Carlyle said. “We only gave up nine scoring chances [against Tampa] so a lot of good things happened but it really wasn’t a sustained effort from our group. Our emotions weren’t in the game until the last seven or eight minutes.”
An injury to winger Colton Orr that came up in Thursday’s morning skate means a minor line shuffle for the Maple Leafs. He left the skate early and Carlyle said Orr has “a lower-body injury” that will keep him out of the Sabres game.
It looks like Dave Steckel will replace Orr in the lineup and play on the fourth line, which means Jay McClement will move up to the third line with centre Nazem Kadri and Clarke MacArthur.
Leaf goaltender James Reimer skated briefly with the team Thursday but is still not ready to test his injured knee in a full practice. Carlyle said Reimer is “progressing” but would not give an estimate on when he expects him back in the lineup.
However Carlyle did say Reimer, who sprained his knee 10 days ago, is expected to start practising with his teammates this weekend when the Leafs are in Ottawa and Philadelphia.
“[Goalie coach] Rick St. Croix normally spends only 17 days a month with us but he’s making the trip to Ottawa and Philly,” Carlyle said. “That means Reimer will be on the ice working with Rick.”
At this point, it looks like Reimer will be out of the lineup for at least another two weeks.