Pre-Game: Leafs and Penguins w/ Mike and Alec
From Micheal Aldred…
The Toronto Maple Leafs will be watching Luke Schenn with intensity tonight as the rookie is ready to show the world what he can do against arguably the best in the world in Evgeni Malkin. Not far behind him will goalie Justin Pogge be looking to do the same thing. Tonight, however, there will be a stronger cast on the ice for the buds.
Torontoâ€™s lineup for this evening will be the following:
Ponikarovsky â€“ Antropov â€“ Grabovski
Tlusty â€“ Steen â€“ Blake
Hagman â€“ Mitchell â€“ Kulemin
Stapleton â€“ Newbury â€“ Mayers
Kaberle â€“ Schenn
Van Ryn â€“ Boumedienne
Frogren â€“ Stralman
Ron Wilson was pleased with Luke Schennâ€™s effort on Monday night as the young stud played the better part of the game and showed little signs of weakness against the speedy Buffalo Sabres. Tonight, Schenn will face a better challenge as the Penguins are set to ice Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Miroslav Satan. Sidney Crosby was given the night off.
Justin Pogge will play the full 60 minutes tonight, and is expected to be backed by James Reimer. Pogge will look to improve his movement in net tonight as he appeared a little sluggish at times during his 40 minute appearance against the Sabres.
Tim Stapleton will also make an appearance tonight. Many people do consider him to be the next Kyle Wellwood, but heâ€™ll have to use his speed to compensate for his size.
John Mitchell is already making an impression on the Leafs coaching staff and heâ€™ll be sure to put up a similar effort in tonightâ€™s affair. Heâ€™s a fast skater who plays big and provides a lot of energy and strength up front.
Leaf fans will also get their chance to see Jonas Frogren play his first game. The rugged defensemen will be pushing bodies around left and right and will make the opponent think twice about challenging him for ice in front of the net.
Tonight should be another fast affair, and the Leafs will be looking to prove themselves more against a better club, but by adding more talent to the lineup, the Leafs should provide a better all around game. Watch for more of Ron Wilsonâ€™s system to take effect.
Micheal A. Aldred
From Alec Brownscombe…
Luke Schenn passed his first NHL test with relative ease, looking self-possessed and by no means out of place in a trouble-free performance against the Buffalo Sabres.
Fellow top prospect Justin Pogge was sharp between the posts and showed signs of advanced development since this time a year ago.
But the benchmark’s been set considerably higher for the pair of rookies, who will face a more NHL-calibre line-up tonight. The Pittsburgh Penguins will ice an array of big league talent, including Evgeny Malkin, Miro Satan, Peter Sykora, Pascal Dupuis and Ruslan Fedotenko.
The Leafs will ice a more competitive cast than that of two nights ago, with Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Tomas Kaberle, Alex Steen, Niklas Hagman and Anton Stralman joining Jiri Tlusty, Jason Blake and Mike Van Ryn from Monday’s line-up. Still no Pavel Kubina or Vesa Toskala, however.
Mikhail Grabovski will center the Twin Towers in his first appearance in Blue and White. Grabovski played but 24 games with the Canadiens last season largely as a result of his wild inconsistency. The key to Grabovski’s success in Toronto may be finding the right situation for the shifty center. Antropov and Poni may be able to supply the defensive responsibility and industry – in addition to play-making prowess – that will allow Grabovski the freedom to employ his creativity.
Bruising stay-at-home rearguard Jonas Frogren also makes his Maple Leaf debut and will skate alongside sophomore Anton Stralman, a pair I’ve hoped to see united since the Leafs signed Frogren in the off-season. Both Swedish nationals, the pair should complement each other nicely and hopefully Frogren will help along the development of Stralman’s own-zone game.
I expect Jamal Mayers to have a big debut performance tonight. He’s very much a Ron Wilson archetype and should suit the system currently under implementation. Wilson suggested recently that Ryan Hollweg, Dominic Moore and Jamal Mayers may just comprise the 4th line energy unit come the beginning of the regular season. Mayers will skate alongside Kris Newbury and Tim Stapleton tonight. The 5’9 Stapleton will be up against it in trying to show his worth as a purely offensive player on the fourth line.
Nik Kulemin will feature alongside John Mitchell and Niklas Hagman. Kulemin proved Monday that he can play this checking line role effectively but hopefully he’ll be tried alongside Alex Steen at one point in the tilt so he can establish himself offensively.
Pogge is expected to go the length with James Reimer as back-up. The team’s second forward line of Jiri Tlusty, Alex Steen and Jason Blake is one Wilson has projected into opening night should they click.