BOSTON - Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock usually meets the media after practice with sweat dripping from his brow following a quick and intense off-ice workout. Friday's session took place a few metres from reporters behind a curtain in the bowels of TD Garden, just down the hall and around the corner from the team's locker room.
Babcock exerted a lot of energy — the grunts ensured there was no doubt — and he will be asking his Leafs to do some heavy lifting of their own in Game 2 of the club's first-round series with the Boston Bruins in the wake of a disappointing opener.
But that task got a lot more difficult because of a key absence.
The Leafs learned Friday night that centre Nazem Kadri would be suspended three games by the NHL for his hit on Bruins forward Tommy Wingels in the third period of Thursday's 5-1 loss that kicked off their Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
Babcock spoke long before the judgement was handed down by the league's department of player safety, but based on his line combinations at practice on Friday, he seemed resigned to being without the 32-goal man for Saturday's rematch.
"We lost guys all year long. Dig in and play," Babcock said. "Playoffs are real simple: If you win, you play again. If you don't, you go home. We want to keep playing.
"You spend all this time preparing and working. Now we've got to show it."
Kadri was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for leaving his feet and hitting Wingels, who was in a vulnerable position on his knees along the boards, after the Bruins forward elbowed Mitch Marner in the face.
Kadri pleaded his innocence following Game 1, but was nowhere to be seen at practice on Friday.
Wingels was not on the ice at Boston's practice either, and his status for Saturday remains up in the air.
In Kadri's absence at the Leafs' skate, Patrick Marleau slid from the wing to centre on the second line, with Zach Hyman taking up the veteran's usual spot opposite Marner.
Leo Komarov was bumped up to the first line from the fourth to skate alongside Auston Matthews and William Nylander in Hyman's old slot, while rookie Andreas Johnsson appears set to make his playoff debut in the bottom-6 with Tomas Plekanec and Kasperi Kapanen.
"I've gone back and forth all year," Marleau said of moving to the middle. "It's a little bit different, but should be fine."
Babcock said the switch isn't a long-term solution, but one he likes in the interim.
"He's a big body and knows how to play," the coach said of Marleau. "He's a guy who's comfortable in the playoffs, comfortable in the middle. He's been there before."
Hyman was one of the lone bright spots for Toronto in Game 1, scoring on a terrific solo effort to tie things 1-1 in the first period.
"Speed, tenacious on the forecheck, heavy body, goes to the front of the net," Marleau said of his potential new winger. "He creates a lot of room out there.
"Usually first guy to the puck, using his body to his advantage."
The Leafs failed to match the Bruins' intensity early in Game 1, but survived and had a couple of chances to go ahead before the Bruins scored twice late in the second period to put the game out of reach.
The likes of Matthews, Marner and Nylander, who all go their first taste of playoff hockey at this level last spring in a six-game loss to Washington, were unable to find space through a crowded neutral zone, while Boston's top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak led the way for the Bruins with six points combined.
"Playoff hockey is going to be physical, but with two teams that are big rivals that seems to be elevated a little bit more," Matthews said. "We definitely can do a better job in a lot of different areas."
Another topic Friday was an odd exchange that saw Marchand lick Komarov's face after the two came together near the benches — marking the second time the two have gotten close this season.
"It doesn't bother me," Komarov said. "I play hockey and he plays hockey, and he's a good player, and we just keep competing."
Babcock played down Marchand's antics, adding that it's up to his team to try to match the Bruins' best players.
"I saw a real good player working real hard," Babcock said. "The rest of that stuff, that's not what makes him good. What makes him good is he's competitive.
"Their three guys were more competitive than ours, and in the end, that's why they had success."
And for the Leafs to have success and avoid an 0-2 hole before the teams head to Air Canada Centre for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Thursday, they need to get back to the hard work that had them setting franchise records this season.
"It's no different than writing an exam," Babcock said. "If you prepare hard, you expect good results. If you go there and you don't get them, you say: 'What did I do wrong so I can be better next time.'
"That's what this is."
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