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lined up as the teams top centre - the bet

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BUFFALO - With 44 seconds left in regulation and a wide-open cage to shoot at, James van Riemsdyk fired a shot that would have tied the score at First Niagara Center. Kelly Olynyk Jersey . Instead, his attempt was blocked by the left leg of Sabres defender Christian Ehrhoff and the Leafs were sent their fourth loss in five games. "Theres no bigger stop in the game than Ehrhoff on JVR," said Randy Carlyle following the 3-1 defeat in Buffalo, just the second regulation win for the Sabres this season. "But those are the things that are happening against us right now and weve got to find a way to push ourselves through." Offence has been hard to come by for the Leafs in recent days. In fact, theyve scored just four goals in the past five games, just two of those markers coming at even-strength. "Were getting some good chances - weve just got to start burying them," van Riemsdyk said. Tied for third in team scoring with 13 points, van Riemsdyk is one among a number of the teams highest scoring players who have gone quiet. In fact, the four active leading scorers for the Leafs - van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Mason Raymond - have combined for just six goals and six points in the past six games. Furthering those woes are the limited contributions the club has gotten elsewhere. Seven of the 12 forwards who dressed against the Sabres have not scored this season, including David Clarkson, Jay McClement and Nik Kulemin. The defence, meanwhile, has contributed just three goals on the year, two of those empty-netters. Recalled to fill the void of the suspended Nazem Kadri and help stem a gaping gap down the middle, Trevor Smith was the lone Leaf to score in Ted Nolans return behind the bench in Buffalo on Friday. Questioned on the clubs offensive struggles, Carlyle pointed to the need for a simplified approach. "Put the puck towards the net and drive people towards the net," he said. "Shoot the puck; dont try to be so fine. It seems like were trying to pick the top corners or trying to pick spots where we should be just concentrating [on getting the puck to the net]." The Leafs were actually one of the most effective teams offensively at even-strength last season, ranking fourth with 105 goals in five-on-five situations. So far this season though theyve scored just 29 goals, tied for 20th overall after Friday night. It would be easy to point to the recent losses of Tyler Bozak, Dave Bolland and now Kadri for the clubs offensive struggles. But those troubles have only exacerbated an issue thats been simmering all year (12 of the first 47 goals were scored with the man advantage), kept quiet by a potent power-play thats recently gone silent (2-21 in the past seven games). "We had some point-blank [chances]," said Carlyle, who was pleased with his teams effort and intensity despite the loss. "We didnt have, I think, the great number of second opportunities. The puck was bouncing away from us, but yet we had our chances in the hockey game. You look at the difference in the game: power-play. They get a power-play goal and we dont get one." Five Points 1. Centre Ice Issues Never in his extensive coaching career has Carlyle seen quite a predicament such as the one his team currently owns at centre ice. Down their top three centres - with Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland injured and Nazem Kadri suspended - the Leafs are in a state of flux at the position. "Id have to say this is a new one," said Carlyle prior to the game. "You have plan A, B, C and D in the drawer and I think were at E and F right now." Signed to an NHL contract last week, longtime Nashville Predator Jerred Smithson may have been plan E with Trevor Smith returning to the Leafs as plan F. The 28-year-old played with the Marlies in Cleveland on Thursday night, dropped off by the team on their return home. Plugged as a fourth line centre in his previous nine games with the Leafs, Smith was thrust into a larger role against the Sabres. "We cant expect Trevor Smith to come up at put him on our fourth line," Carlyle said. "Its unfair to him in this situation. When we had other people ahead of him, we had Bozak, we had Bolland, its a little bit different, but in tonights situation hes going to play a prominent role in an offensive line." Smith scored just the second even-strength goal for the Leafs in the past five games, the fifth of his career and second this season. He totaled nearly 17 minutes, mostly alongside Raymond and Clarkson. Smithson, meanwhile, continues to log important minutes for Carlyle - 13 against the Sabres - while assuming the bulk of his teams faceoffs. The 34-year-old has taken 80 draws in four games to lead the team. Update - The Leafs acquired 2009 first round pick and centre Peter Holland from Anaheim. A Toronto native, Holland will join the team immediately with an opportunity to play in the top six. 2. JVR at centre Its been clear from the get-go that the move to centre is not one that completely suits van Riemsdyk. But understanding the dilemma the club has faced and continues to face down the middle, the natural winger has complied with the coachs decision. Rarely looking comfortable and appearing to think rather than instinctively react, the 24-year-old has gone pointless in four games down the middle. Asked if those struggles were related to his shifting to centre, van Riemsdyk replied with a sly grin and revealing response. "Thats not for me to decide," he said. Questioned on whether hed reconsider moving van Riemsdyk back to the wing, Carlyle also replied with some frustration. "I dont have anybody else," he said. "What else do you want me to do? Are we going to put a defenceman at forward?" Phil Kessel grew up a centre, but has played wing almost exclusively in the NHL with plenty of success. Mason Raymond played sparingly down the middle in Vancouver, including a game or two due of injuries last season. Like van Riemsdyk, neither is an ideal option. And so, in all likelihood, the Leafs will have to continue to grind down the middle for at least a few more games. Out since Oct. 25 with a hamstring injury, Bozak should return to practice next week and could be available by the weekend, if not early the following week. Kadri will be eligible to return from a three-game suspension on Nov. 21. Carlyle actually employed two centres on the same line against the Sabres - Jay McClement and Smithson - using Carter Ashton sparingly in a fourth line role. 3. Simplify Friday marked just the second time all season that the Leafs have outshot their opponent, but as Carlyle noted after the game, his club has been reluctant to fire pucks consistently toward the net. "When youre struggling a little bit offensively thats what you always want to try to do is simplify a little bit," said van Riemsdyk, "maybe shoot more pucks towards the net, keep driving the net and doing all those things." The Leafs had 33 shots against Ryan Miller. They attempted 59 - to just 35 for Buffalo - 16 of which were blocked, another 10 missing the net. 4. Kadri suspension One would have expected Nazem Kadris hearing with NHL Senior VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan to include a moment or two on the Mikael Granlund hit which got the 23-year-old ejected from Wednesdays game in Minnesota. "Thats what I got the match for so I was expecting some sort of discussion about that," said Kadri. "But it was all about the first one. He agreed, he thought the second one was clean." The first one was, of course, the collision with Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom in the opening frame of an eventual 2-1 shootout loss. "I was just trying to go to the net hard to make a play and just ran out of real estate and accidentally bumped into him," said Kadri of the hit which resulted in a concussion for Backstrom. Instigated by general managers following the Ryan Miller-Milan Lucic collision of 2011, Shanahan has tried to increase protection for goaltenders. According to Kadri, what drew the most concern from the league disciplinarian was the violent strike of the right elbow into Backstroms head. Lying motionless on the ice for a few moments, the 35-year-old ultimately remained in the game before leaving shortly thereafter. "Its definitely understandable," said Kadri of the suspension. "I know theyve kind of cracked down on the interference with the goaltenders and players [have] got to be aware of their surroundings now. That being said, it was unintentional." Kadri said he was surprised to receive three games, expecting either a fine or 1-2 game suspension. 5. Bernier sharp shorthanded Though he yielded a power-play goal to the Sabres on Friday, Jonathan Bernier has been among the most effective netminders this season when his team is shorthanded. The 25-year-old has given up just seven power-play goals on 91 shots, the fourth-ranked save percentage (.923) among goaltenders with at least 10 starts this season. Yielding an inopportune rebound to a Tyler Myers point shot, Bernier was beaten when Cody Franson, trying to tie up the stick of Drew Stafford, accidentally nudged to the puck to Steve Ott, who buried it for Buffalos first goal. Stat-Pack 2 - Even-strength goals for the Leafs in the past five games. 2-21 - Leaf power-play in the past seven games, including an 0-3 showing on Friday. 80 - Total faceoffs for Jerred Smithson in four games as a Leaf, leading the team in that span. 0-3-0 - Career record for Jonathan Bernier against the Sabres. 2 - Points for David Clarkson, who added his second assist of the season against the Sabres, but remains goal-less in nine games. 23:26 - Ice-time for Cody Franson against the Sabres, leading the team. 59-35 - Shot attempts favouring the Leafs on Friday night. 6 - Combined goals and points in the past six games from James van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Mason Raymond. Special Teams Capsule PP: 0-3Season: 21.2% PK: 2-3Season: 84.2% Quote of the Night "That was a heck of a play by him. He made a good read and sacrificed his body for it." -James van Riemsdyk on Christian Ehrhoffs game-saving stop late in the third period. Up Next The Leafs return home Saturday to host the Sabres in the second half of a home-and-home set. Chris Bosh Jersey .Just like old times.Only this time, just one got to enjoy a victory.James return to Miami as an opponent was a success — for the Heat, that is. Wade scored 24 of his 31 points in the first half, Luol Deng had 25 points and dogged James defensively all night, and the Heat beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 101-91 in a hyped Christmas matchup Thursday. Miami Heat Jerseys . Paul, MN (SportsNetwork. http://www.authenticbasketballshopheat.com/tyler-johnson-heat-jersey/ . The Australian is competing in his final season in Formula One and still looking for his first win this year. He will look to end Vettels run of six straight race wins on Sunday. Webber, who is fifth in the championship, earned his second pole from the past three races and 13th of his career.TORONTO - It was a gamble and Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis knew it. "If we werent able to get Bozak signed or if Clarkson didnt sign then I wouldve had a lot of cap space with no players," Nonis told the Leaf Report. "So it was definitely a gamble and we weighed that against keeping him and playing him." Ultimately, Nonis and his management team opted to exercise their second compliance buyout on Mikhail Grabovski this past summer, ridding themselves of the enigmatic centreman after five years in Toronto. After much debate, they determined that the cap space freed up by his dismissal was just too enticing to pass up; that the players fit on the roster just wasnt there. The 29-year-old, who returns to the Air Canada Centre as a member of the Washington Capitals on Saturday evening, still had four years remaining on a contract that ate up $5.5 million in cap space annually. "It wasnt a decision we made just overnight," Nonis said. "We thought long and hard about it and decided to roll the dice with the cap space and see if we could relocate it effectively." These were nervous times for Nonis. Though he had just acquired 27-year-old Dave Bolland from the Chicago Blackhawks, he had no guarantees that Tyler Bozak would re-sign in Toronto nor whether David Clarkson, their top free agent target, would take their bait and become a Leaf. "We didnt know when we did it that wed be successful in getting some players signed," Nonis said. Also due to be signed were restricted free agents Jonathan Bernier, Carl Gunnarsson, Nazem Kadri, Mark Fraser and Cody Franson. Cap space, predictably, (with the upper-limit dropping to $64.3 million) was going to be at a premium. "We looked at a number of scenarios, including keeping him," Nonis said of Grabovski, who signed for one year in Washington at $3 million. "I said at the time, I think Grabo, wherever he ends up, was going to have a positive impact. Hes a good player and I believe that. But for us we felt we needed to regain that cap space to make some other moves moving forward." A major part of the equation was also the players fit within the roster. Never coming to grips with the role he was required to play in Toronto last season, Grabovski endured the worst season of his career in 2013. He finished with nine goals and 16 points in 48 games, completely off-kilter in the defensive role head coach Randy Carlyle had pegged him to fill. Afforded similar minutes under Adam Oates in Washington, albeit with a more offensive leaan, Grabovski has already produced seven goals and 19 points this season. Udonis Haslem Jersey. "Again, the notion that there wasnt ice-time available for him or opportunity last year, thats just false," Nonis said of Grabovski, who averaged nearly 16 minutes last season, his lowest as a Leaf. "I think it was more a situation where the fit just wasnt right. And it wasnt his fault. I dont think he ever shortchanged us on effort or being prepared or professionalism or any of those things. There just didnt seem to be a fit. And so to have that much cap space tied up with a player that wasnt fitting with us - it doesnt mean hes not going to fit with other teams, obviously he is - but thats what led to the decision to buy him out." Grabovski made no secret of his disdain for Carlyle and the role he was dealt in his final season as a Leaf. He believed his value came from producing offence - he scored 20 goals three times - and could not comprehend why that opportunity wasnt being afforded him as it had been previously under Ron Wilson. "I think too much is made about the coach being the issue with Grabo," Nonis said. "Look at Grabos ice-time and look at his opportunity and look at his performance and I think Grabo would tell you that he didnt have a great year. Whether it was just because he didnt feel like he was being used correctly or what it might be, but I think its easy to point the finger at the coach and say well its his fault. I dont think thats fair. Theres a lot of things that went into his season last year and I think just saying it was all the coach is unfair." The teams dynamic at centre ice almost dictated the terms for Carlyle. With Kadri making the team out of training camp when the lockout wrapped last January and Bozak already lined up as the teams top centre - the better fit for Phil Kessel in the teams opinion - there was nowhere else to put Grabovski but in the checking role he was assigned. Add Bolland into the mix from Chicago this summer - an ideal candidate to fill the role Grabovski griped under - and the stage was set for change in early July. Nonis, admittedly, could have waited until the summer of 2014 to exercise the buyout - the final year to do so under terms of the new CBA - but risked another poor season in doing so. "From a managers point we looked at it and said Is this the best thing to do for us to rehabilitate him, so to speak, and get him back to playing where we needed him to play or to buy him out and create the cap space. "That was the decision." Cheap Canadiens Jerseys Cheap Predators Jerseys Cheap Devils Jerseys Cheap Islanders Jerseys Cheap Rangers Jerseys Cheap Senators Jerseys Cheap Flyers Jerseys Cheap Penguins Jerseys Cheap Sharks Jerseys Cheap Blues Jerseys Cheap Lightning Jerseys Cheap Maple Leafs Jerseys Cheap Canucks Jerseys Cheap Golden Knights Jerseys Cheap Capitals Jerseys Cheap Winnipeg Jets Jerseys ' ' '


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