Game Day: Mike Babcock
An opportunity to see Nikita Zaitsev here tonight… as camp approaches the midway point in games, is it important for him to get in here?
Babcock: He’s missed one game, though, when you really look at it, right? He’ll get an opportunity to get going. Obviously, having the baby and then being a little knicked just slowed him down as far as getting in games. But he’s ready to go.
Does Roman have to get in at all?
Babcock: What did Roman tell you? You guys all interviewed him. What did he say?
He said he’s feeling 90%.
Babcock: When Polie tells me he’s ready to go, we’ll go from there.
Are you pleased with how the battling for the third-pairing spots has gone?
Babcock: I think it’s competitive for sure. You watch each night. I don’t have any answers for you, so that must mean it’s pretty competitive. We’re just going to keep watching these guys. We’ll try to play them as much as we can. We have a day in between games now for the next three, so there should be an opportunity to play guys.
Do you like what you see with Rosen beside Carrick there?
Babcock: I’m not looking at that. I’m looking at Carrick and I’m looking at Rosen and I’m looking at Dermott and Marincin and Borgman. That’s kind of what I’m doing. I’m watching them all, but I’m watching them all individually, not so much as a pair. They just happened to be put like that. We had partners so they wouldn’t be put back to back, that’s all.
Does Carrick have a base for you?
Babcock: For sure. He’s a good player and an important player. To me, they’re all independent right now at this time.
What did you think of Borgman getting into a fight the other night?
Babcock: I just think Borgman is a physical guy who is a bigger man than most of our guys on the back. He’s really evasive. We’ve got to help him with understanding how we play and his stick a little bit, but he does a lot of really good things that we can teach easy. We can’t teach 227 or whatever he is, and he’s strong as an ox.
How did you think Dermott did on his offside?
Babcock: I thought Dermott was good in the game. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in our own zone. We’ll see more as it gets more competitive here.
Is it hard for you evaluating games like last night when the games are kind of half AHL, half NHL?
Babcock: Yeah, but what you do is try to put guys in the right situation so you can evaluate them. As much as there’s an evaluation going on, you’ve got to get your own guys ready. The puck drops October 4th there and we’ve got to be ready.
You mentioned Carl Grundstrom recently. He had a breakthrough season last season. what do you like about him through camp so far?
Babcock: I don’t think our guys thought he had a breakthrough season or they wouldn’t have taken him in the second round. They thought he was good. What I see is a big, strong guy who is very competitive and shoots the puck in the net every time he touches it. He looks like a hockey player to me.
What does Dominic Moore have to demonstrate for you here, Mike?
Babcock: You’ve got him and you’ve got Fehr and you’ve got Aaltonen. You’ve got all of these guys battling for a job there. We’re just going to continue to watch him. You just do what you do and be a good pro. You skate and make plays and be real good on the penalty kill.
With five games left, you’ve got two of those three spots open on the fourth line?
Babcock: I would say you’ve got one spot open. Brownie or the other nine guys are playing. Marty is playing. Now, they’re all battling for ice time, though. That’s for sure.
When you are in a situation with so many guys here, do you talk to them individually much or is it not possible?
Babcock: I try to. In training camp, there are two teams. There are a lot of guys to talk to. I try to talk to these guys every single day. That doesn’t mean you’re getting to them all right now. But it’s a stressful time of year. It’s an individual time of year. If you’re in one of those spots where you’re in a battle, you’re doing the math every day. When you leave the rink, you’re still winding yourself into the ground. That’s just the way it is. Anybody who has played competitive sports knows how it is.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
JvR – Bozak – Marner
Grundstrom – Fehr – Kapanen
Rychel – Moore – Johnsson
Soshnikov – Smith – Clune
Gardiner – Zaitsev
Rosen – Carrick
Marincin – Valiev
Buffalo Sabres Projected Lines
Moulson – Eichel – Okposo
Kane – Reinhart – Pominville
Smith – Larsson – Fasching
Deslauriers – Criscuolo – Bailey
Beaulieu – Ristolainen
Guhle – Tennyson
Gorges – Antipin