With the Toronto Maple Leafs listing badly to starboard, as they say, head coach Ron Wilson is trying to bring some balance to his team.
Which is why Tim Connolly is going back to the job he was hired for, No. 1 centre. Thanks to his shoulder injuries, the veteran centre has only played six games with wingers Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul since coming to the Leafs as a free agent but Wilson expects that to change starting Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings.
“He can distribute the puck and we need just a little more balance between offence and defence,” Wilson said after the game-day skate Monday. “I hope [Connolly]can provide that.”
Scoring goals has not been a problem for Kessel and Lupul, who were playing between Tyler Bozak. But the trio was a collective minus-6 in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Since the Leafs lost four of their last five games and six of their last eight, a change is needed.
“We’re scoring a lot but we need to shore the defence up to help our goaltenders gain confidence,” Wilson said.
James Reimer will start in goal for the Leafs against the Kings and he needs to improve. He insists his 18-game layoff due to a concussion is not the reason why he has a poor 1-3-1 record and 3.39 goals-against average since he returned to play on Dec. 3. But he needs to turn things around or the calls for Jonas Gustavsson, who did not play badly in the Canucks loss, to get the No. 1 job will get louder.
Based on what the Leafs showed in practice, here are the expected lines for Monday’s game:
Joffrey Lupul-Tim Connolly-Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur-Mikhail Grabovski-Nikolai Kulemin
Matt Frattin-Tyler Bozak-Colby Armstrong
Jay Rosehill-Phillipe Dupuis-Joey Crabb