Toronto Maple Leafs require a lift out of funk
The listless Maple Leafs will surely get a boost from David Clarkson's debut next Friday night, and they have also been missing the defensive diligence of Nikolai Kulemin. The other thing awol lately has been the edge, the swagger the Buds had developed in the pre-season and early games in the 2013-14 NHL schedule. Here's where Mark Fraser (knee) and Frazer McLaren (finger) come into the picture.
Mark Fraser a tough, shutdown D-man
If Fraser is not yet ready to return to the lineup, it will be difficult to send Morgan Reilly back to junior. The Leafs defence has been steady however Randy Carlyle has had to make do with 9 NHL forwards and 3 AHLers (Broll, Leivo with Brodie or Smith). The Leafs with Clarkson, Kulemin and McLaren in the lineup will be much tougher to play against, and if Mark Fraser is also ready to return soon, that raises the steel quotient further. For salary reasons, Carter Ashton may have to spend some time with the Marlies, unless he can significantly outplay the likes of Broll, Leivo and Smith.
Even though the Maple Leafs have not been blown out in any game, their goalies have kept them in a few. Let's hope the two losses in a row (to Chicago and Carolina) instigate a return to the highly competitive Carlyle style.