The Toronto Maple Leafs return home from a three-game road trip on Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre when they face the Minnesota Wild, who will be wrapping up a five-game trip of their own.
Toronto finished its trip 1-1-1 and Minnesota is 1-1-2 on its tour. Both teams defeated the Edmonton Oilers on their trips.
The Maple Leafs (10-9-5) have been at their best at home (8-3-0) and Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who was born in Toronto and once played with the Leafs, has noticed.
“I’ve watched their home games, and when they’re on, you’d better be ready to play,” Boudreau said Tuesday. “They’re going to be very good, very soon. It’s not going to take too long for these guys to be extremely good.”
The Wild (12-8-4) has held its own in road games, going 5-5-4. When the trip ends Wednesday the Wild will have played five more games on the road than at home.
Boudreau does not want his team to suffer a letdown in its last game of a long trip.
“I hope it doesn’t happen in this city,” he said. “I have enough trouble winning in Toronto (4-5-3 as a coach and 0-3-1 in the past four visits) when I come, so I hope we’re ready to play. We’re coming off a pretty good win in Edmonton (2-1 in overtime on Sunday) and we’d like to continue this because then we’ll have a good stretch at home.”
The key for the Wild is the goaltender of Devan Dubnyk, who leads the NHL with a save percentage of .945 and in shutouts with four and is second in goals-against average at 1.63.
“He has given us a chance every night,” Boudreau said. “He’s been spectacular.”
The Maple Leafs are pleased with their starting goaltender, Frederik Andersen, who played for Boudreau with the Anaheim Ducks, but are searching for a reliable backup.
They have taken a step in this direction by clearing goaltender Jhonas Enroth through waivers and assigning him to the Marlies of the AHL.
Called up from the Marlies was up 22-year-old prospect Antoine Bibeau, who will back up Anderson on Wednesday.
The long-term solution appears to be Karri Ramo, the former Calgary Flames goaltender, who has been cleared to play after recovering from a knee injury and has signed a tryout contract with the Marlies.
Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock would like to be able to give Andersen more games off than Enroth enabled him to get with his lack of performance.
“I think we’ve given (Andersen) a pretty good workload at this point,” Babcock said. “He’s played 21 games. We’d like the backup to play 20 games.”
The highest number of games in which Andersen has played in one season is 54 in 2014-15.
“I remember playing up to about 20 games straight,” Andersen said. “That was a good learning curve, playing every night and getting used to that workload both mentally and physically. There are so many different mindsets — playing every night, playing now and then. You’ve got to be able to switch your mindset every night and be ready for every shot.”
Andersen struggled in his first few games of this season and had some sympathy for Enroth, who lost his job after four starts.
“I didn’t get in a groove for my first four or five starts,” Andersen said. “For him, it was tough. But you have to make the best of it. He’s a good guy to have around.”
With the Marlies, Bibeau is 6-5-5 with a 2.54 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri did not skate with the team Tuesday because he was ill. Center Peter Holland was not at the workout either as he awaits a trade.
Minnesota has reassigned right winger Zack Mitchell and defenseman Gustav Olofsson to the Iowa Wild of the AHL.
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