Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Ron Wilson shakes up his lines after ugly loss

You can always count on Ron Wilson for new lines when things aren't going well.

On Monday at practice, the Toronto Maple Leafs coach's line blender spun things in a new direction, with centre Tim Connolly on the wing for the first time and Nikolai Kulemin bumped down to the third line.

Neither player has been playing very well. Connolly has received a lot of attention for his no goals and three assists in his last 16 games skid, while Kulemin's funk has essentially been a season-long one given he's on pace for 34 points.

Story continues below advertisement

Connolly has never been much of a faceoff man and said he would be comfortable on the wing so there may be something to this latest experiment.

The third line he was on with Matt Lombardi and Joey Crabb clearly wasn't working, and Wilson noted after Saturday's awful 5-0 loss to the Habs that he had to find a way to get Connolly going.

Playing with Mikhail Grabovski may accomplish that.

"Grabo's been playing exceptionally well, I think," Wilson said. "This is kind of to get both Kulie and Timmy going a little bit. A different look ...

"[It will] take some of the responsibility defensively from [Connolly] and get him thinking about playing with a couple of guys that have been pretty successful this year. Hopefully he can get out of his little mini-slump here.

"Having two centres on the ice isn't a bad thing either in terms of taking faceoffs."

Connolly has played on the second power play unit with Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur quite often this season and didn't seem to mind the move.

Story continues below advertisement

"Two tremendously skilled players," he said. "We'll see what happens."


- You can almost be certain that Jonas Gustavsson gets the start Tuesday against Calgary, but Wilson wasn't tipping his hand after practice. James Reimer had a tough time against Montreal but still likely draws into one of the next two games given Toronto's playing back to back against both Alberta teams.

- Colby Armstrong was obviously not all that pleased with sitting as a healthy scratch on Saturday. Wilson, however, made a point of praising his fourth line after the loss so it's safe to say Darryl Boyce likely stays in. "I was disappointed for sure," Armstrong said after practice. "I've sat out a lot of games this year [with injury] and I'm just trying to get back. To be sitting back out is tough."

- Wilson on sitting two veterans who wear letters in Armstrong and Mike Komisarek: "Our guys understand it's a meritocracy. Whoever's playing best is going to be in the lineup."

- Wilson on what the Leafs were working on in practice: "We haven't been picking up rebounds and for that matter we haven't been getting very many deflection opportunities ... We needed to work on our forecheck, which wasn't very good the other night, and our gap control with our D with a couple of drills."

Story continues below advertisement

- Grabovski was clearly having some issues with his stick in practice and was talking with Phil Kessel about the problem. He was asked afterwards if he's trying a new stick out, and it turns out he's not very happy with the latest shipment he's received from Easton. "They're not giving me what I want," he said.

Here's the full projected lineup assuming Carl Gunnarsson can't play due to injury:

Lupul - Bozak - Kessel MacArthur - Grabovski - Connolly Kulemin - Lombardi - Crabb Brown - Steckel - Boyce

Phaneuf - Schenn Liles - Komisarek Gardiner - Franson


Report an error
About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.