All involved said the Montreal Canadiens soundly out played them on Saturday night, with Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson pointing out that his team missed Colby Armstrong, in particular, in the loss.
Armstrong is out of the lineup for at least the next two games after he began to suffer blurred vision in the tail end of Thursday's overtime loss to the Devils. The team isn't 100-per-cent certain what's causing the issue, but Wilson noted how much they miss his presence in the lineup.
For whatever reason, the Leafs have a 20-16-3 record with Armstrong in the lineup and only a 3-11-3 record when he's been hurt. (This is his third injury this season).
"For me, it’s more difficult missing Colby Armstrong than anybody because he does some things that other guys can’t do," Wilson said. "We have more puck possession when his line’s on the ice in the offensive zone when he’s in the lineup than when he’s not. We’ve got to find a way to compensate while he gets better."
Wilson has one theory as to what caused the injury, but it doesn't involve the punch he took to the face from the Atlanta Thrashers' Ben Eager on Jan. 7.
"Sometimes you’re exercising and you can pop a blood vessel in your eye or something like that, but it wasn’t any specific hit or anything like that," he said.
Before the game against the Devils, Armstrong had been on a run, with four goals and 14 points and a plus-1 rating in his last 16 games. Wilson has been using him quite a bit on the penalty kill, as well, although that unit remains one of the NHL's worst.
- Pretty sleepy day at practice today on the whole, with many of the questions for players relating to Mario Lemieux's comments. The Leafs boarded a plan for Boston immediately after they skated and were out of the room fairly quickly. “I think the league did as good a job as they could under tough circumstances," Wilson said of that situation. "But Mario’s obviously entitled to his opinion.”
- As is often the case, Clarke MacArthur was the most outspoken about the whole situation: "The guy has no class," he said of Islanders enforcer Trevor Gillies, who was suspended nine games for his actions last Friday. "I'm not afraid to say that. Every time we have played there, he stands there and yells the whole game. I'm glad they gave him a suspension; he deserves it."
- The biggest absence was that of captain Dion Phaneuf, who didn't skate at all, but spoke briefly after practice and said he's just nursing minor bumps and bruises. "He’s a little banged up from all the play the last couple of weeks," Wilson said. "We’ve had a lot of games with him playing 28, 27, 29 minutes so we’ve got back-to-back games this week and a little chance for him to rest and recover."
- Wilson wouldn't reveal who will be playing goal, but you can almost guarantee James Reimer gets the start in Boston and J-S Giguere plays in Buffalo the next night. I have a hard time seeing the Leafs throw Reimer back in goal in Buffalo after he was shelled there recently. Reimer also had a very solid outing against the Bruins on Jan. 3.
- Fourth-line winger Mike Brown practised for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury and remains about a week away from returning. Colton Orr (concussion) is still a missing person in that we haven't seen him around the team in ages and Wilson wasn't able to provide an update on him.
- The MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin line is back together after a couple games apart, which means Phil Kessel will be playing with newcomer Joffrey Lupul and his pal Tyler Bozak in Boston.