Leafs’ Lebda will dress as left-winger tonight
The Toronto Maple Leafs are trying a new twist with their roster tonight.
Brett Lebda, who has been in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch, will dress as a left winger. The defenceman will skate with John Mitchell and Colton Orr on the fourth line against the visiting Atlanta Thrashers. Jay Rosehill has been returned to the Toronto Marlies.
Nazem Kadri will remain as a healthy scratch while Jonas Gustavsson will make his second consecutive start in net in the absence of injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere. While the Leafs do not yet have a report from the specialist who is scheduled to examine Giguere, coach Ron Wilson said the veteran goaltender would likely be out at least a week to 10 days and definitely not play in either of the next two games.
The Lebda experiment is an intriguing one. Wilson estimated that Lebda, a terrific skater, played 18 games on the wing last year for Detroit. Lebda says it was closer to 10 but, the point is, it’s not unfamiliar territory to the 28-year-old.
“We like his speed and if we need to use him on the back end, he’s also available for that too,” said Wilson. “Maybe he can play a little bit on the point on the power play as well.”
“He struggled a little bit on the back end and with our defence being healthy, it’s a chance to keep him in the lineup,” the coach added.
The transition is not unheard of. For years, the Leafs moved Wade Belak back and forth between the two positions though his role was as an enforcer rather than a skill player like Lebda. Atlanta’s leading point-getter, Dustin Byfuglien, played forward for Chicago last season but is on defence for the Thrashers.
And Wilson himself moved back and forth between forward and defence during his playing days as a Leaf in the late ’70s.
“From my own experience it was easier to go from up front to back,” said Wilson. “It’s a little bit harder because the pace of the game as a defenceman is entirely different than being a forward. But he’s such a good skater and with playing left wing on the fourth line I can almost automatically say be the third man high and it’s like playing a shift with three defencemen.”
Lebda said he would try to make the most of the opportunity.
“Anyway you can help the team, that’s what you’ve got to do,” he told AM 640. “If coach thinks that’s the best way to go, I’m going to go out there and use my wheels, get it deep and try to get some hits on the forecheck.”
Edited by sixer, 20 December 2010 - 03:10 PM.