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Youth movement provides sense of intrigue Leafs have been missing

After making the first of what Brian Burke promises will be many trades, the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager announced a youth movement was afoot on the ice at the Air Canada Centre. Though the changes thus far are relatively minor, last night’s game suggested that with a few fresh faces in the line up, the Leafs may just deliver the sense of intrigue and excitement that has been otherwise absent this year. Sure, the tilt ended in a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils—but newly acquired Joffrey Lupul created chances on the wing, Keith Aulie delivered big-time body checks after getting called up from the minors and James Reimer continued his stellar rookie campaign. If nothing else, the impending youth movement could make the rest of the season worth watching, postseason push or not.

With Francois Beauçhemin dealt to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Aulie returned from the Marlies and didn’t miss a step. He replaced the veteran defencemen in emphatic fashion, leading the Leafs with seven hits, including a number of bone-crushing blows in his own end, and played a solid 22 minutes alongside captain Dion Phanuef. Reimer was equally impressive—that’s quickly become par for the course—turning aside 37 shots and carrying the Leafs into the extra period.

Lupul missed a chance to put the game away in regulation, but he still turned in a quality performance in his first game in the blue and white. He’s no young gun, but he’s no old man either and he looked good skating as a top-six forward (after occupying a largely third-line role in Anaheim), firing eight shots toward the Devils goal, three of which were on target, in 18 minutes of ice time.

According to the Toronto Star:


This is likely how it’s going to go for the rest of the season. As the Leafs give the fans a glimpse into their future—a very hopeful one, on this night—they’ll continue trying to make the present mean something.

Heck, even Phil Kessel seemed to find a renewed sense of purpose out there, making a pretty play to set up new linemate Nikolai Kulemin at one point and actually backchecking at another.

• Poor outcome, but positive signs, in Leafs’ 2-1 loss to Devils [Toronto Star] • Game 55: When a loss is a step in the right direction [Toronto Star] • Leafs youth on display in Reimer, Aulie [Globe and Mail] • Leafs have Devil of a time in loss [Toronto Sun]

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