Maple Leafs' Holzer shakes off poor performance
Maple Leafs defenceman Korbinian Holzer (left) figures he gave Penguins stars SIdney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin too much respect in Saturday's loss. The Leafs are in Winnipeg to face the Jets on Tuesday. (QMI AGENCY/FILES)
Like many of us, Korbinian Holzer has a lot of admiration for the likes of SIdney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Probably too much.
Expect that to change when the Penguins return to the Air Canada Centre for the second time in six days as they clash with the Maple Leafs on Thursday.
When the Penguins made their first visit of the season to Toronto on Saturday, Holzer struggled against the Penguins superstars in the early going and eventually was replaced beside Dion Phaneuf on the team's top defensive pairing by Cody Franson. The Leafs eventually dropped a 5-4 decision to the Pens when Crosby scored the shootout winner.
Sure, the Holzer-Phaneuf pairing normally has faced the opposition's top lines all season. But going up against Crosby and Malkin, arguably the NHL's two best players, well, that can be a different story.
"I think I probably gave them too much respect," Holzer said on Monday, referring to going up against Crosby and Malkin.
"I mean, they are great players and are worthy of it. But I probably gave them too much.
"I need to be more confident against them. I gave them far too much space. I need to be sure of my own abilities and concentrate on my game.
"They're good, but I believe in my abilities to play against them."
With Matt Frattin returning to the Maple Leafs lineup on Saturday after undergoing a knee procedure, no one was happier to see his linemate/buddy lining up next to him than young centre Nazem Kadri.
"I missed him a bit, that's for sure," Kadri said on Monday. "It certainly helps having him back.
"He's quick, he's good on the body and he makes good passes. And he usually has some jump when he comes back from injury. I saw that last year with the Marlies.
"We're similar players so we play off each other well."
Frattin did get on the scoreboard in his return, notching an assist in the 5-4 shootout loss to the Penguins.
"My timing was still a little off, but that's to be expected when you've been out of action for three weeks," Frattin said. "It was just nice to be back."
During the Leafs' 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 7, fans mockingly greeted Manitoba native James Reimer with chants of "Reeiiii- mmmmerrrr!"
That's fine with the Maple Leafs goaltender, who will accept some more of that razzing Tuesday at the MTS Centre if means another victory for Toronto.
"Being from Manitoba, it's always cool to go there," Reimer said. "It's always nice to see friends and family."
As is his custom, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle will not announce his starting goalie ahead of time. If he plays the sentimental card, Reimer will be the choice to start.
Reimer still is frustrated at his performance against the Pens, including being beaten twice in the shootout.
When it was pointed out that Crosby's winner nestled into the top corner, he shrugged his shoulders.
"It was a great shot by a great player," he said. "But if you want to be a great goalie, you have to stop great shots by great players."