Pre-Game: New Jersey v. Toronto (Yet Again)

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    It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day.

    For the 3rd time in a week, the Maple Leafs face the Devils. To be fair, the matchups have all been unique in that both teams have undergone significant overhaul between each game.

    Two days after a 5-4 overtime loss to the Devils last Friday (has it really only been a week?), the Leafs acquired Dion Phaneuf and J-S Giguere in two separate blockbuster trades, the result of which was Tuesday’s 3-0 shutout victory in rematch #1. Just last night, the Devils decided to do some roster shuffling of their own, picking up superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who will indeed suit up this evening for rematch #2.

    Game Notes

    • The Leafs will head into the game tonight using the same forward lines and defensive pairings as they did in on Tuesday.
    • In somewhat of a surprise move, Jonas Gustavsson is expected to get the start in net tonight, with J-S Giguere on tap for tomorrow’s game against the Senators.
    • Leafs‘ winger Alexei Ponikarovsky is riding a 4-game point streak, putting up 7 points (1G, 6A) in that span.
    • Martin Brodeur is expected to start for the Devils this time around.  Last Friday vs the Leafs, he got the win but allowed 4 goals on 29 shots (.862) in the process.  For what it’s worth, backup goaltender Yan Denis allowed 3 goals on 26 shots (.885) in Tuesday’s loss to the Leafs.
    • Brodeur has struggled somewhat of late. Over his last 10 games started, he has sported a 3-6-1 record, allowing 26 goals on 214 shots for a surprisingly-low (dare I say, Toskalesque?) save percentage of 0.879.
    • At least for the first part of the game, Ilya Kovalchuk is expected to play on the Devils second line with Dainius Zubrus and Jamie Langenbrunner.  Expect him to see time on the top PP with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, possibly manning the point as he did in Atlanta.
    • The matchups will be interesting. Beauchemin and Phaneuf did a very good job against the Parise line during the last game, and will likely be used as much as possible against that unit once more. If that is the case, we can expect Kaberle and Schenn as the primary matchup against the Kovalchuk line.
    • Ilya Kovalchuk vs the Toronto Maple Leafs:
      27 games, 12 goals, 13 assists, -6 rating.  2 PPG, 5 PPA.

    Lineup Notes

    The Maple Leafs are expected to start the game with the following line combos:

    1st: Ponikarovsky – Bozak – Kessel
    2nd: Mitchell – Hanson – Stempniak
    3rd: Kulemin – Wallin – Sjostrom
    4th: Rosehill – Primeau – Orr

    DP1: Phaneuf – Beauchemin
    DP2: Kaberle – Schenn
    DP3: Exelby – Gunnarsson

    Healthy Scratch: Jeff Finger

    Injuries:  Grabovski (wrist – appx. 2 wks), Komisarek (shoulder – season), Van Ryn (you name it, it probably broke at some point – season)

    Interestingly, the Leafs have only 12 forwards and 7 defenders on their active roster.  Some are surprised a call-up has not yet been made from the Marlies to have an extra forward on hand, but there is no sense in doing so if the coaching staff is planning on using the same lineup as they did the last time out (which is what is happening here).  Should this lineup falter, or changes be deemed necessary, expect Viktor Stalberg’s name to be at the top of the call-up list.

    Stats Pack

    Not much different than last time out, but I’ll post it anyway for those who wish to have the relevant numbers on hand:

    NJ TOR
    Overall Record 35-18-2
    (2nd East)
    18-28-11
    (14th East)
    Home Record 18-9-0 10-12-5
    Road Record 17-9-2 8-16-6
    Goals For 140 (t-27th) 151 (16th)
    Goals Against 123 (1st) 195 (30th)
    Powerplay % 19.0 (11th) 16.6 (23rd)
    Penalty Kill % 82.4 (12th) 70.4 (30th)
    Scoring First 22-5-0 11-4-4
    Leading After One 17-1-0 8-4-1
    Trailing After One 9-14-1 5-15-3
    Leading After Two 24-1-0 14-1-2
    Trailing After Two 3-15-0 0-25-6
    Overtime 8-2 1-11

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