An intriguing top line of Kris Versteeg, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel will feature in tonight’s rematch with the Flyers following the Leafs‘ 11-round shootout win over Philadelphia last night at the John Lebatt Centre in London. The trio is the most skilled iteration of forwards the Leafs‘ roster has to offer, and combined with Dion Phaneuf and Tomas Kaberle on the blueline (who will also dress) represent an interesting potential powerplay option for coach Wilson. The results with the man advantage tonight, then, will be well worth monitoring.
Phaneuf and Kaberle will have to do a much better job managing the powerplay from the point than what we witnessed in the opener against the Senators. As a unit, movement was lacking and Kaberle’s pass-first predictability combined with Phaneuf’s forced shots (hitting shinpads more often than the opposition’s net) to waste multiple five on three opportunities. Kaberle has to do a better job at keeping the opposition guessing; the Senators penalty killing forwards were consistently cheating on Phaneuf’s side and #15 played right into their hands (this isn’t a new problem; I still blame it for ultimately hurting the effectiveness of the McCabe-Kaberle powerplay tandem). Phaneuf for his part needs to a) find the lanes and b) HIT THE FREAKING NET.
Hopefully Captain Dion can shake off the visible signs of rust he displayed last time out. He’ll skate alongside Carl Gunnarsson 5-on-5 according to the Globe and Mail’s Leafs Beat.
Jean Sebastien Giguere will see his first action of the preseason, looking to pick up where he left off last season. Jussi Rynnas will back him up, and will look to rebound after a tough first outing if he takes over part way through.
Also appearing in his first primer is the young and gigantic Keith Aulie, who will skate alongside other “Big Four” member Simon Gysbers. Burke’s comment over the summer on members of the big four having a good shot at pushing for a spot at training camp has not quite lived up to the billing so far, as Mikus, Gysbers and Holzer have all been solid but not spectacular. We’ll see what kind of impression Aulie can make tonight.
A second line of Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski (who have shown strong chemistry together in the past) and Clarke MacArthur represents an interesting experiment as well.
Wayne Primeau, at camp on a professional tryout after his contract with the Leafs expired July 1, will center the fourth line. He faces a lot of competition down the middle, but with Nazem Kadri looking AHL-bound so far and John Mitchell failing to show much of anything, perhaps he can work his way onto the roster with some energetic, hard-forechecking and defensively-responsible shifts.
Versteeg, Bozak, Kessel
Kulemin, Grabovski, MacArthur
Hamilton, Brent, Crabb
Orr, Primeau, Brown