Randy Carlyle will face the only other NHL team he’s coached for the first time when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the surging Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre. Carlyle wasn’t exactly waxing nostalgic after the Leafs’ morning skate, noting that while there will certainly be some nerves, he’s far more focused on getting his team prepared for a Ducks outfit that has won seven straight after opening the season with a loss.
Both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer were on the ice this morning and the fact Bernier left first almost certainly means he will get the call against Anaheim.
Toronto figures to go with the lines it used in practice on Monday. If that’s the case, the Leafs formation will look like this:
Toronto may have a favourable 6-3-0 record, but coming off back-to-back defeats versus the Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks, there’s a lot of chatter about the need to improve. A team lauded for its work ethic last season just hasn’t been putting in the same consistent effort all over the ice this year.
“We’ve won some games based upon our special teams and our goaltending,” Carlyle said. “Our worth ethic of our group has to be elevated to the point where we can create more of an identity for ourselves. I don’t know if we can say what type of hockey club we are yet.”
Tuesday’s contest is the final game of Leafs right winger David Clarkson’s 10-game suspension for leaving the bench during a pre-season brawl with Buffalo.
Also glancing at the schedule is Toronto defenceman Morgan Rielly. Tuesday night will be his eighth game in the league, meaning he can play one more before Toronto has to decide whether to return him to the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League or keep him with the big club and burn the first year of his mandatory three-year entry-level deal. The odds seem overwhelmingly in favour of Rielly sticking.
The overlap between Anaheim and Toronto goes well beyond Carlyle thanks to the Feb. 2011 trade that returned defenceman Francois Beauchemin to the Ducks in exchange for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner. While Lupul has been able to resurrect his career in Toronto, Beauchemin has also reestablished himself as a top-level defenceman in his second tour of duty with Anaheim.
The 33-year-old blueliner – who left Anaheim to sign with the Leafs in 2009 – was a combined minus-17 in 136 career games with Toronto, but was plus-19 last year with 24 points in a lockout-shortened 48 games. Beauchemin’s plus-9 rating this season is tied for the second-best mark in the NHL.
Any talk of the ageless Teemu Selanne drew smiles both from guys who’d played with him, and those who have admired him from afar.
Selanne, 43, has said this will be his final NHL season. Captain Dion Phaneuf lauded the ‘Finnish Flash’ for being a tremendous ambassador for hockey, while Lupul, a former teammate, mentioned the fact Selanne treated everybody – teammates, fans, media members – with class and respect.
Carlyle actually played alongside Selanne for a brief time with the Winnipeg Jets before coaching him in Anaheim.
“It’s amazing to me he still has that extra gear,” Carlyle said. “He has a change of pace, a stutter-step, that catches a lot of people flat-footed and he’s an all-around tremendous athlete.”
Selanne has scored in three consecutive games, becoming the oldest player to do so since a 51-year-old Gordie Howe tallied in three straight in 1979.
While Carlyle once coached the Ducks, his replacement behind the Anaheim bench, Bruce Boudreau, played 136 games over six seasons with the Leafs in the ’70s and ’80s.