Leafs’ Bernier gets 3rd straight start vs. Oilers

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle didn’t tip his hand about any potential lineup changes as his team prepares to host the Edmonton Oilers Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.

The expectation is the same guys who dressed in the Leafs’ 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday will face the Oilers tonight. That means Troy Bodie is likely to sit this one out.

Expect the lineup to look like this:

Jonathan Bernier back between the pipes

Bernier, who got the shutout in Nashville and is sporting a ridiculous 0.84 goals-against average and .974 save percentage, is expected to make his third straight start for the first time in his NHL career. He did not skate this morning, but James Reimer did.

Most of the veterans skipped out on the skate, but Dave Bolland — who did not practice Friday — was on the ice and said afterwards his absence yesterday was just a maintenance day and not related to the groin issue he’s dealt with since training camp.

Much of the dressing room chatter centred on the return of rookie Oilers coach Dallas Eakins to Toronto.

Eakins spent the past four years as coach of the Toronto Marlies. Known for his direct approach and unwavering emphasis on fitness and nutrition, Eakins helped mould many players now wearing blue and white.

This morning, defenceman Carl Gunnarsson recalled Eakins’ message for him when he was called up to the Leafs, which was essentially, “I better not see you down here ever again.” Eakins worked very closely with Nazem Kadri during the young centre’s time in the American Hockey League and it wasn’t always smiles and back pats. Eakins publicly questioned Kadri’s eating habits on the eve of last season, which put Kadri under a microscope. Upon reflection, Eakins realized he made the wrong decision and let Kadri know that.

“It was pretty upsetting for me,” Kadri said Saturday morning. “He understood the circumstances and I wish he handled it a little differently, but at the same time, I’m just grateful he came and talked to me after. We had a great conversation and he basically apologized. It’s not only a learning curve for the players in this organization with all the media attention and scrutiny, it’s a learning curve for the coaches, as well. I think that’s what’s going to make ‘Dally’ such a professional head coach is, he’s been through it before.”

The Oilers are off to a 1-3-0 start under Eakins, allowing 19 goals along the way. Still, with the high-end talent they posses, the Leafs know they’re in for a battle.

“Back in Chicago, we had a few good ones with them and when they’re on, they’re on,” Bolland said.

Eakins isn’t the only Oiler making a homecoming; Mike Brown (112 games with the Leafs) is expected to face his old team tonight. Another former Leaf, Ryan Hamilton, has an injured knee and has suited up just once for Edmonton this season.

The Leafs will wear their “third sweater” tonight, and 12 more times this year.

Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf has scored 26 career points versus the Oilers, more than any other team he’s faced.

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