Leafs/Blackhawks Preview

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    This will be the first and only time these two teams will meet this season. Their last tilt took place on November 22, 2008 in Toronto where Chicago won the game 5-4 in overtime.
    Note: Be sure to check out Alex Tran’s quick hits of the day!

    Chicago is currently looking to extend their win streak to 3 games, while the Leafs are at the bottom of the stairs, ready to take the first step all over again.

    The Leafs are just 7 points out of the top 8, and if they can put any sort of points string together as they did for much of November, that number could be quickly reduced. It will all begin tonight, when Vesa Toskala is expected to lead the charge in the Windy City. The Leafs play on back to back nights – tonight vs. Chicago, tomorrow vs. Calgary – and Gustavsson will be back between the posts for the Leafs home tilt against the Flames tomorrow.

    The Blackhawks have just finished putting away the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings over their last 2 games. Jonathan Toews returned for points in both affairs. Should the Hawks win tonight, it will mark a string of 6 straight wins at home. Patrick Kane has helped the Blackhawks put that streak together with points in 8 of his 9 last games.

    This will be the first full game Mike Komisarek will miss since tearing his quadricep in a collision with Todd Bertuzzi and the boards. Carl Gunnarsson has been called up but will not see action tonight, though there is a strong possibility he will be on the ice with the club tomorrow night.

    It is clear the Leafs will be playing Gustavsson against a team Toronto feels will be a much stronger competitor, not to mention tomorrow night’s game against the Calgary Flames is at home. The Leafs will want to treat their fans to a better goaltender.

    Gustavsson: 0.912 SV% and 2.77 GAA

    Toskala: 0.836 SV% and 5.13 GAA

    A win tonight could do a lot for Vesa Toskala. Since starting the year with a strong performance against the Canadiens – a respectable 4-3 overtime loss – he has fallen into the shallow depths where no goaltender ought to go. His numbers speak that of under skilled junior defenders, while his salary says he’s a number one goaltender. Tonight is the start for him to get back on to the right pace or fear the waiver wire. Eat or be eaten.

    Team Comparison:

    Powerplay: TOR 2nd (25.0%), CHI 19th (18.2%)
    Penalty Kill: TOR 30th (71.6%), CHI 1st (87.1%)
    Faceoff % – TOR 20th (48.9%), CHI 2nd (54.1%)
    Average Shots For: TOR 5th (33.1), CHI 4th (33.3)
    Average Shots Against: TOR 20th (30.9), CHI 1st (22.6)
    Average Goals For: TOR 21st (2.56), CHI 14th (2.82)
    Average Goals Against: TOR 30th (3.69), CHI 6th (2.29)
    5 on 5 Goals For/Against Ratio: TOR 27th (0.70), CHI 10th (1.18)

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    Micheal A. Aldred
    [email protected]