Update: Ron Wilson must read MLHS – After much outrage it appears Brett Lebda will not be in the line up tonight. Carl Gunnarsson and Keith Aulie will play.
Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to continue their recent scoring streak against the New Jersey Devils. Both teams are looking to escape the bottom half of the Eastern Conference, and each are sporting a similar record over their last ten games: New Jersey (3-6-1), Toronto (2-6-2). Jonas Gustavsson will get the start for the Leafs tonight as J.S. Giguere will be sidelined for a week or two with a groin injury.
It will be the first of four meetings this year, and both teams will look to make a mark in the first match-up. For a Leafs team that has been solid defensively (for the most part) this season, they might get a bit of a break tonight as the Devils are the lowest scoring team in the league with just 33 goals in 18 games. The Devils were also shut out in three of six games this month. That is not the say the Leafs can slack off in their own zone, but it does present an opportunity for better break out plays.
Lou Lamoriello shines a light on his team’s problems this season that could very well mirror any words from Ron Wilson and Brian Burke about the Leafs.
“We’ve seen some good signs and some other signs,” said Lamoriello. “It’s unacceptable to find ourselves where we are. We haven’t won any games we didn’t deserve to win and we’ve lost some games we could’ve won. At different times you get teased. We’ve had good outings and good shifts. We have to get that consistency.”
If the Leafs want to generate a strong performance tonight, they’ll have to play a tight defensive game, while continuing their success on the powerplay. The Devils penalty kill, ranked 14th overall, will be a challenge, but if the Leafs can keep the bodies moving and keep the shots low for rebounds, they should be able to earn a few points on the scoreboard.
The final edge the Leafs have over the Devils is New Jersey’s injury list:
Jamie Langenbrunner (RW) Head injury (Day to day)
Bryce Salvador (D) Concussion (Injured reserve)
Zach Parise (LW) Knee injury (Injured reserve)
Mark Fraser (D) Broken hand (Injured reserve)
Anssi Salmela (D) Knee surgery (Injured reserve)
Matt Taormina (D) Ankle injury (Day to day)
Jacob Josefson (C) Hand injury (Injured reserve)
If the Leafs can shut down Kovalchuk and Arnott in tonight’s match-up, it’s their game to lose.
Who’s Hot? Toronto:
Luke Schenn (D) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Tomas Kaberle (D) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Francois Beauchemin (D) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Mikhail Grabovski (C) 4 pts in last 2 GP
Clarke MacArthur (LW) 4 pts in last 2 GP
Phil Kessel (RW) 3 pts in last 2 GP
Kris Versteeg (W/C) 3 pts in last 2 GP
Who’s Hot? New Jersey:
Andy Greene (D) 3 pts in last 3 GP
Henrik Tallinder (D) 2 pts in last 3 GP
Patrik Elias (LW/C) 4 pts in last 3 GP
Jason Arnott (C) 3 pts in last 3 GP
Travis Zajac (C) 4 pts in last 5 GP
Who’s Not? Toronto:
Nikolai Kulemin (LW/RW) 1 pts in last 4 GP
Jonas Gustavsson (G) 0-1-1, 3.47, .875 in last 3 GPI
Who’s Not? New Jersey:
Dainius Zubrus (C/W) 1 pts in last 8 GP
Ilya Kovalchuk (LW/RW) 1 pts in last 4 GP
Johan Hedberg (G) 1-2-1, 4.48, .861 in last 4 GPI
I will be liveblogging tonight’s game on The Checking Line. Action gets underway at 6:45. Be sure to join in on the discussion!
Micheal A. Aldred