Leafs not rul­ing out hav­ing Bozak back at cen­tre

Simcoe Reformer - Times-Reformer - - SPORTS - LANCE HORNBY

If Tyler Bozak can stom­ach it, he’ll be back at cen­tre for the Maple Leafs on Wed­nes­day against the Calgary Flames.

Grounded by a bad case of food poi­son­ing the day be­fore the Leafs played in Van­cou­ver on Satur­day, Bozak re­turned to prac­tice Tues­day, but coach Mike Bab­cock is wait­ing for the game day skate be­fore aban­don­ing Plan B, to move Wil­liam Ny­lan­der to cen­tre.

“I had quite a bad case and I was throw­ing up for a few days,” Bozak said. “I thought I was over it, came to the rink (Mon­day) and when I got here, it started again and I went home. Hope­fully, I’m over it. It’s been a tough few days, now I have to get my en­ergy back.”

Bozak’s seven points the past 24 games after open­ing the sea­son with one in three straight rep­re­sents one of his dri­est runs. At times coach Mike Bab­cock broke up his long stand­ing line part­ner­ship with winger James van Riems­dyk.

“They’re not the num­bers I wanted per­son­ally, but the way the team has per­formed as a group has been pretty good,” Bozak said. “It’s a long sea­son and you’ll have stretches where ev­ery­thing goes in for you and ev­ery­thing doesn’t. This one has gone a lit­tle longer, but you can have one good month and be back in it. I’m not wor­ried too much.”

Lead­ing scorer Aus­ton Matthews and Bab­cock have both pointed out Bozak’s ab­sence in Van­cou­ver left the team with­out a right-handed cen­tre on draws.

“That was one of Bozie’s big strengths in the past and the new (face-off po­si­tion­ing ) rules haven’t helped him much,” Bab­cock said. “We needed him to get back to that form. Be­ing a dom­i­nant face­off guy re­ally helps him, he gets a lot off of­fence in the O -zone out of that.

“We’ll see what hap­pens. I told Willy to be ready if we need him (the right winger prac­ticed with van Riems­dyk and Mitch Marner on Mon­day). Over time, we’ll just keep work­ing Willy down low in prac­tice, so when it’s time he can just jump in and play cen­tre.”

The Leafs won two of three in Western Canada last week, los­ing 2-1 in Van­cou­ver and now set to play the Flames and Oil­ers again at home, sand­wiched around a Satur­day road game in Pitts­burgh.

The Leafs are on the verge off scor­ing 100 goals and are sit­ting just out of first place in their di­vi­sion , al­most 20 goals ahead of last year’s pace. But, don’t ex­pect the em­pha­sis on de­fence to wane. Matthews plays with Zach Hy­man and Con­nor Brown, re­lent­less check­ers who mesh well with Matthews’ com­mit­ment to im­prove as a twoway cen­tre.

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