(SportsNetwork.com) – A coaching change did not produce the desired response
from the Toronto Maple Leafs the last time out, but the club hopes the second
game under interim head coach Peter Horachek tells a different story.
The sliding Maple Leafs will shoot for a better effort on Friday when they
welcome the surging Columbus Blue Jackets to Air Canada Centre.
Toronto fired head coach Randy Carlyle on Tuesday after leading the Leafs to a
21-16-3 record. At the time of his dismissal, Carlyle had his club in playoff
position but that is no longer the case as Toronto was passed by Boston on
Wednesday for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins earned a road win in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the same night the
Maple Leafs were handed a 6-2 loss by the visiting Washington Capitals. It was
Toronto’s third straight loss — all of which have come in regulation — and
dropped the club to 2-8-0 over the last 10 games.
It also was the second straight blowout loss for the Leafs, who also were
handed a 5-1 setback in Winnipeg on Saturday in a game that turned out to be
Carlyle’s final game behind the bench.
Toronto has been outscored 14-4 margin during the current three-game slide.
Friday’s test is a big one for both the Blue Jackets and Leafs. Columbus,
which owns a 12-2-1 record since the beginning of December, has 39 points on
the season. That leaves the Jackets six points behind Toronto in the East
standings and nine points out of a playoff spot.
The Leafs did win the first of three encounters with Columbus this season,
notching a 4-1 road victory on Oct. 31. That halted Toronto’s three-game slide
in the series, but the Jackets still enter tonight riding a four-game winning
streak at Air Canada Centre.
Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier had a rough night on Tuesday, yielding
five goals on 25 shots. Trevor Smith and Daniel Winnik provided Toronto’s lone
“This was a frustrating game because we gave them some goals and that got us
down,” said Winnik. “We have to make some changes here to tighten things up.”
Toronto is capping a brief two-game homestand tonight and is 14-9-0 as the
host this season.
While the Maple Leafs are trying to stop the bleeding, Columbus is hoping to
complete a four-game road trip with a third consecutive victory. The Blue
Jackets began the swing with a 6-3 loss in Arizona before notching wins in
Colorado and Dallas.
Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist to lead the Blue Jackets to Tuesday’s
4-2 win over the Stars.
Nick Foligno had three assists while Kevin Connauton, James Wisniewski and
Mark Letestu all scored for the Blue Jackets, who have won four of five and
improved to 9-8-1 on the road this season.
“It was a real good win for all the guys out there,” said Columbus head coach
Todd Richards. “We probably could have managed the puck a little better, but I
thought that was a really complete game we played.”
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 24 shots in the win. With the Blue Jackets also
playing tomorrow at home against the New York Islanders, Columbus’ No. 1
netminder could get a rest tonight.
In injury news, Toronto defenseman Roman Polak is questionable for tonight
after taking a slap shot to the face on Tuesday.