Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock couldn’t help but notice a crucial difference the past few times he watched defenceman Calle Rosen play for the Toronto Marlies.
“I don’t know if he is stronger, but he is playing a way stronger game,” Babcock said, “and that’s confidence, just knowing where to go and where to stand.”
Recalled on an emergency basis from the Marlies on Tuesday, whether Rosen plays against the Dallas Stars on Wednesday will be determined by the health of Travis Dermott. The latter was sick and missed practice on Tuesday and once he is healthy, Rosen will be sent back to the American Hockey League.
There’s also the issue of defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who is battling an illness and has been out of commission since practising last Friday.
“I don’t know what is going on as far as these guys who are sick, so we’ll see (on Wednesday),” Babcock said.
Rosen played in four games with the Leafs in October. In 50 games with the Marlies, he has 17 points.
“I learned that I have to play hard every day to get back here,” Rosen said. “The last couple of weeks I felt that I have been playing better and it was nice to get the call up.”
As much as Alexander Ovechkin has stuck a dagger in the Leafs in his NHL career, including in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, there only was respect in the Toronto dressing room after the Washington Capitals superstar scored his 600th career NHL goal on Monday.
“Unbelievable for Ovie,” Babcock said. “I like Ovie. He has a real personality, he has a love of the game, real zest and energy for life. I think he’s great for the game.
“Amazing, the puck just goes in when he has it. He can get it off legs, through the legs, around people like nothing I have ever seen. The guy in Winnipeg (Patrik Laine) looks like he is falling (in) right behind (Ovechkin).”
Nazem Kadri would just as soon try to infuriate Ovechkin by playing hard against him, but like Babcock, had praise.
Where does Ovechkin rank, in the mind of Kadri, when natural goal-scorers are considered?
“Probably the best in terms of those I’ve played against or matched up against,” Kadri said. “He is a gifted individual.
“That shot is like nothing I have ever seen before. It’s incredible, the areas of the ice he decides to shoot the puck in, I couldn’t even dream of shooting the puck in those circumstances. That’s what scorers do. He finds a way to get it done.”
STARS ON ICE
Babcock knows there is the potential for the Leafs to have their hands full with the Stars’ top three forwards — Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov.
“Benner is a real hockey player,” Babcock said. “He will punch you in the mouth, he can shoot it in the net, he can penalty kill, take faceoffs, play the wing, play centre, do whatever. He is a real hockey player. Elite player, elite competitor.
“Seguin is an elite skater, shooter, dangerous guy, good in the faceoff circle. And you throw Radulov in the mix there. He is tenacious and as heavy down low as any player in the league. I like their hockey club.”
Defenceman Morgan Rielly doesn’t find himself scanning the Eastern Conference standings with the regularity he did during the stretch run of the 2016-17 regular season. “I’m doing it less than I did last year because we were trying to stay alive and now I think maybe we have a bit more of a cushion,” Rielly said. “I’ve been more interested in what’s going on in the west, to be honest. But you look a few times a week (at the Eastern Conference), you want to check what’s going on.” … If Kasperi Kapanen gives some advice to pal Andreas Johnsson ahead of Johnsson’s first NHL game on Wednesday night, what might he say? “Don’t be afraid to make plays,” Kapanen said. “You have to play the right way, but just enjoy it, have a smile on your face and play as well as you can.” … The ECHL on Tuesday approved an expansion team for St. John’s, Nfld., to begin play in the 2018-19 season, but an affiliation with the Leafs, though rumoured, has not been made official. The new franchise is working toward an agreement with the Leafs, whose ECHL affiliate at present is the Orlando Solar Bears.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies