After grading his team an F in a few areas on Monday night, Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle could be putting the Mark Fraser-Cody Franson blueline tandem back togther. The pair was a big part of last year's playoff drive in the 48-game season, but were broken up when Fraser's skull was cracked by a shot in the Boston series. Carlyle went with different looks so far this year to accommodate rookie Morgan Rielly and newcomer Paul Ranger. On Tuesday, Carlyle had Fraser and Franson back together, eyeing them as a shutdown pairing. "We will seriously consider that for (Wednesday)," Carlyle said. "We're going into Pittsburgh and there's no secret who is there. We have to make sure we're at the top of our game." Ranger sat the last two games, but the 6-0 loss to Columbus gave Carlyle carte blanche to tinker with everything on the line except Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson. "Yeah, their forwards aren't bad," said Gunnarsson with a grin. "You throw James Neal in there (missing in the Oct. 26 game) and he adds a little extra. "But last time we played them (a 4-1 win) we did pretty good." Carlyle wasn't putting all the onus on his forwards to start getting to the "dirty areas" and cure a dearth of even-strength goals. He wants all six of his defencemen to help get the puck deep in the slot as well. FACE FACTS At a success rate of 52.8%, the Leafs will be up against the best faceoff tream in the conference in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is fifth overall among all NHL teams, while the Leafs were 25th after their loss to Columbus on Monday at 47.6%. "Sidney Crosby and a number of guys work at it," said Jerred Smithson, who takes many of Toronto's important faceoffs since the Leafs promoted him from the Marlies. "As a whole team, not just the centremen, we're going to have to get in there and help out and do whatever we can to get that puck. "Crosby and (Evgeni Malkin) are two world-class players. They win the draw and there's a good chance you're not going to see the puck for the rest of that shift. We'll do some (video) research on them and we'll be prepared." SEE YOU SUNDAY It was a good time for the Leafs to hustle out of town on Tuesday afternoon, given how stale they looked at the Air Canada Centre as their five-game home stand ended. "Sometimes it's better to go out on the road and just simplify things," Smithson said. "There's no pressure, you just have to go out there and work. It doesn't have to be pretty. "And sometimes when you get out on the road you get to bond with guys. This is a huge trip. We obviously didn't end our home stand the way we wanted, but we get a chance to regroup (Wednesday)."
Leafs test Fraser-Franson pairing
Toronto Sun | Nov 27