Bye gives Leafs wel­come re­prieve

Re­group af­ter go­ing 2-3-2 in last seven

National Post (Latest Edition) - - SPORTS - Kyle Cicerella

• Toronto Maple Leafs de­fence­man Mor­gan Rielly is thank­ful for Toronto’s bye week, per­haps more than oth­ers in the dress­ing room.

Toronto started its five­day break on Thurs­day on the heels of back- to- back losses. Both looked to be winnable games against t i red t eams play­ing t he s econd of back- t o- back games on the road, but Rielly made a mis­take in each that led to im­por­tant goals in the dy­ing min­utes of the third pe­riod.

“I think if I’m not mis­taken last year’s break came at a time when we were rolling and we didn’t re­ally want to go away for a week. Right now, I think a lit­tle break might not be the worst thing,” Rielly said af­ter Wed­nes­day’s 4- 3 loss to the Sen­a­tors.

Over­all, Toronto out­played its op­po­nent in both but only came away with one of a pos­si­ble four points.

The Leafs drop­ping points and a hot run by the Bru­ins has Bos­ton tied with Toronto for sec­ond in the At­lantic Di­vi­sion with 53 points just past the half­way point. The Bru­ins, how­ever, have five games in hand and have gone 12-2- 3 since the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber. Toronto was 2-3-2 in its last seven be­fore the bye, with a shootout needed for both vic­to­ries.

“I think, to be hon­est, we haven’t got as many points as we would like the last lit­tle stretch. This will be a good chance for ev­ery­one to re­group and re­fo­cus for what’s ahead,” said Leafs goal­tender Fred­erik An­der­sen.

An­der­sen is in a three-way tie for the NHL lead with 37 starts, with coach Mike Bab­cock only turn­ing to a sec­ond op­tion in eight of To- ronto’s 45 games. He’s played 2,233 min­utes 22 sec­onds and is well on his way to sur­pass­ing last sea­son’s ca­reer high of 3,799. He’s also seen his share of rub­ber, fac­ing 1,261 shots, an av­er­age of 34 per start.

An­der­sen is 22-13-2 with a 2.66 goals- against av­er­age and .921 save per­cent­age, sit­ting among the league lead­ers in most sta­tis­tics.

“If he’s not our MVP, he’s right there,” said Leafs de­fence­man Ron Hain­sey.

“He’s just given us great, great goal­tend­ing for how­ever long now. We’ve got a chance ev­ery night.”

Bab­cock would pre­fer the play­ers keep ac­tive over the break, say­ing, “there’s a whole other level we’ve got to get to if we’re go­ing to have any suc­cess.”

“As a young coach I would have wanted them to take their skates to the Ba­hamas and find some ice and skate. We know that’s not hap­pen­ing. I think you pick the bat­tles you can,” said Bab­cock. “Any time you take time off, get­ting the mo­tor run­ning, get­ting skat­ing again is not as easy as you might think.”

The Leafs as­signed for­ward Fred­erik Gau­thier and de­fence­man Travis Der­mott to the AHL Mar­lies so they won’t see much of a break with the mi­nor-league squad set to play two games over the week­end. Both fig­ure to be re­called when the Leafs swing back into ac­tion on Tues­day against the St. Louis Blues at the ACC.

Toronto has six more sets of back- to- backs down the stretch and 20 games at Air Canada Cen­tre com­pared to 17 on the road.

Rielly says the time off should be get­ting used prop­erly, to pre­pare for the long haul of the sea­son with a po­ten­tial play­off spot and home- ice ad­van­tage on the line. Af­ter Tues­day, the Leafs play the next four of five on the road.

“We’ll come back re- en­er­gized. It’s im­por­tant that the guys in this room take care of our bod­ies and come back rested and pre­pared to make a long push,” said Rielly.

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