It appears Randy Carlyle has moved forward Matt Frattin up to the second line with centre Mikhail Grabovski and right winger Nikolai Kulemin in an effort to get all three of them scoring more.
The Toronto Maple Leafs head coach would not confirm his plans for Tuesday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, but he did talk about trying to get more offence out of Grabovski’s line and getting Frattin back to NHL speed after he missed 12 games with a knee injury.
“That’s just to give you something to talk about because you guys like to talk about all those things I do, so that’s fun,” Carlyle said after the Leafs’ game-day skate when he was asked if the lineup change was certain.
“We’re just trying to find a way to get some balance throughout our lineup,” Carlyle said. “I think every coach would like all four lines scoring, making some form of contribution as you go along. We’re no different.”
Grabovski has six goals so far and Kulemin two, as Nazem Kadri’s third line has taken a more prominent offensive role. Carlyle acknowledges he has handed Grabovski more defensive duties this season, but thinks it is time his line contributed a little more offence.
“We’d like to see the Grabovski-Kulemin line score more but I’ve put them in real tough situations, too, where they’re playing the other team’s top line,” Carlyle said. “There is a little leeway given them but we’d like to see them provide more offence also.”
Frattin had seven goals in 10 games playing with Kadri, whom he also played with a lot on the Leafs’ Toronto Marlies farm team, but he was never much of a factor in the Penguins game. He will have to adjust to moving to the left wing from the right side, but Frattin did play a little late last season with Grabovski and Kulemin.
“Playing the left side is definitely going to be a little different but I’ll get used to it,” Frattin said. “I just have to handle passes on the backhand and in the D zone. It also gives you that extra asset that you can cut across the offensive zone through the middle and take a shot. I’ll definitely be trying to use that.”
Carlyle said Frattin is “an offensive player that has to be physical to be effective. When he first came back, the pace of the game was pretty high. We played Pittsburgh and I thought he showed signs of rust. We’re going to continue to push and that’s no different than any other player.”
Frattin seemed a little surprised the coach thought he looked rusty.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “Maybe my timing was a little off. I guess you can expect that after being off for three weeks.”
If anything is rusty it would be Frattin’s Russian. It definitely will not be up to scratch for conversing with his new linemates.
“Yeah, they talk a lot of Russian throughout the game,” Frattin said. “I’ll probably get a little advice when needed.”
James Reimer, the pride of Morweena, Man., will start in goal for the Leafs in his home province. While he has generally played well this season, Carlyle admitted Reimer did not have a good game Saturday against the Penguins.
“I thought in the game the other night the puck was bouncing away from him more than it was bouncing for him,” Carlyle said. “We talked about it a little bit.
“In the new era of goaltending, if you watch, when the pucks start to bounce away from people and off their pads and start to feed those juicy rebounds, they’re not at the top of their game. In the other perspective, when the puck sticks to them there never seems to be any junk laying around. That’s when they seem to be at the top of their game.
“He’s given us NHL-quality goaltending, I think. [The Pittsburgh game] was the first speed bump along the way.”