NEW YORK - As the Toronto Maple Leafs went through their game-day skate Friday morning, head coach Ron Wilson gathered his first line near the blue line and delivered a message - keep your shifts shorter.
Centre Tyler Bozak and wingers Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg were notably sub-par in the Leafs' 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday and Wilson does not want to see a repeat Friday night when the Leafs meet the New York Rangers in their home opener at Madison Square Garden.
"They need shorter shifts," Wilson said. "Their shifts [in Pittsburgh]were all over a minute. The best line in that game was the Mikhail Grabovski line and all their shifts were 45 seconds."
Bozak and Versteeg agreed they will be more conscious Friday night about lingering on the ice.
"That is not going to happen every night," Versteeg said. "I think some of that came from getting caught in the defensive zone."
Wilson agreed that sometimes forwards who are having a bad game will stay on the ice too long in hopes of creating a scoring chance to shake their funk.
"I guess so but I've never seen shift lengths as long as that," the coach said. "Sometimes you have to punt when you don't have your A game."
Wilson also told the first line to worry first about getting pucks to the net and not about being cute with them.
"We weren't skating well and a lot of moves that depend on timing weren't working," Bozak said. "We just need to get some pucks on the net. We were trying to be too fancy. [Wilson]just told us to settle down, it was just one game."
The Leafs beat the Penguins to run their record to 3-0 despite just 14 shots on goal. Despite what he told the Bozak line, Wilson said he does not worry unduly about the number of shots on goal.
"I don't care if we get four shots on goal if we win 2-1," he said. "The bottom line is getting the points."
Ranger centre Chris Drury will play his first game of the season after recovering from a broken finger. He will be on the first line between Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov because centre Erik Christensen is expected to miss the game with a leg injury. Defenceman Matt Gilroy will also see his first action of the season after being a healthy scratch for two games. Mike Sauer will sit in the press box.
Here are the rest of the Ranger forward lines:
Brandon Dubinsky-Artem Anisimov-Ryan Callahan
Sean Avery-Derek Stepan-Ruslan Fedotenko
Derek Boogaard-Brian Boyle-Brandon PrustReport Typo/Error