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Struggling Leafs take on struggling Sharks

The Toronto Maple Leafs have fired coach Ron Wilson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Darryl Dyck/CP

If there's a good time to face the San Jose Sharks, this may be it.

Ron Wilson's former team has been in a bit of a tailspin here the past month or so, with a 2-6-1 record in their last nine games that has a group generally considered to be one of the best in the league only four points up on ninth in the West.

Goaltending has been part of the problem. Antti Niemi, who will start Thursday in Toronto, has allowed 25 goals since the all-star break, going 2-4-1 with a 3.46 goals-against average and .883 save percentage.

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With James Reimer starting at the other end for the Maple Leafs, this could well turn into a high scoring contest between two struggling, desperate teams.

(And one has quite a bit more talent than the other.)

Once again, most of the questions Leafs coach Ron Wilson faced Thursday were about his goalies, who weren't permitted to speak with the media a day after GM Brian Burke indicated he may need to acquire a netminder.

"Where's our goaltenders confidence anyway?" Wilson said when asked what impact Burke's statement would have on Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson. "It probably hasn't been good for a couple of weeks. But a good game will turn that thing right around.

"James gets the start tonight, he's got to stop pucks, he knows that. The other stuff you can't control."

Wilson then had a little fun with a question about what Reimer needs to do to be effective.

"Just stop the puck," he said. "It's as simple as that. There's nothing more you can say. See the puck. Stop the puck. Be the puck."

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The coach's oddest statement of the day, though, might have been that his team "played well in Vancouver" in a debacle of a 6-2 loss on the weekend.

"It appears to be a blowout, but scoring chances were 11-11 and the same thing the other night [against New Jersey]" Wilson said. "It's not a matter of scoring more goals. It's getting a big save when you need it."


- There are still seven Sharks regulars left from when Wilson coached them back in 2008: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Torrey Mitchell, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Doug Murray and Ryan Clowe. "San Jose will always be in the back of my mind, but it's not anything you prepare any differently for," Wilson said.

- Mike Komisarek and Colby Armstrong just keep sitting for Toronto. Both alternate captains seem to be quite frustrated at this point.

- Sharks coach Todd McLellan on his team: "We're in a playoff race right now. Something we're not accustomed to. Normally we're out in front. We have to remind the players of that. And Toronto's in the same boat we are."

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Projected lineup

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

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf Gardiner - Schenn Liles - Franson


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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

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