Leafs return home to face Flames (Dec 06, 2017)

TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs could have Tyler Bozak back in the lineup Wednesday night when they play the Calgary Flames at the Air Canada Centre.

The center missed Toronto’s 2-1 loss against the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday due to food poisoning. He returned to practice with the team Tuesday and will be a game-time decision on Wednesday.

If Bozak does not play, it is likely right winger William Nylander would be moved to center on a line with James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner. The trio worked together Tuesday.

“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.”

The Maple Leafs (17-10-1) are coming off a three-game trip to Western Canada on which they were 2-1-0, including a 4-1 victory over the Flames (14-12-1) on Nov. 28.

Toronto will be facing a frustrated Calgary team that lost 5-2 Monday to the struggling Philadelphia Flyers to finish a four-game homestand with three losses.

“Whenever you lose, especially two at home in big games, and three of your last four at home, there’s frustration in your game and in the players,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said after the Monday game. “I think that’s a natural reaction. We’re all frustrated. Especially coming off the road with the road trip we had. We certainly didn’t have the homestand we wanted, so there’s frustration.”

Added Flames right winger Troy Brouwer, who scored his first goal of the season Monday, “We have to be able to shrug things off when they happen and move forward. It seems like sometimes we get a little bit down on ourselves, and that’s where we as leaders can do a little bit better job of making sure that guys stay up and stay excited and not get down on ourselves.”

The focus of the Flames’ practice Tuesday was on coverage in the defensive zone.

“We have to get our game ironed out right now, Gulutzan said Tuesday after practice. “There’s some pieces missing that we’ve got to sharpen up on.”

The coach liked the attitude his team showed during the workout.

“When things get that way with a team, you can go one of two ways,” he said. “The way our guys worked (Tuesday), the way they responded, shows you the people we have there. We’re just going to stick with it. It’s a long season.”

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, would like to have Bozak’s right-handed presence on faceoffs, which was missed during his absence for the loss in Vancouver.

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

“We’ll see what happens (Wednesday). I told Willy to be ready if we need him. Over time, we’ll just keep working Willy down low in practice, so when it’s time he can just jump in and play center.”

Although the Flames have had their problems at home, going 7-8-0, they have a 7-4-1 road record.

The Maple Leafs are 8-5-0 at home and 9-5-1 on the road.