GDT: Leafs visit Vancouver
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The Leafs could make the Western road trip a lot more worthwhile by taking two points from the Rogers Arena tonight but the task won’t be easy. The Vancouver Canucks are odds on favourites to take the Northwest Division title for the third straight season albeit with some competition from the Colorado Avalanche 30 games into the schedule. The crowd should feature it’s healthy dose of Leafs zeal especially if Nucks fans forget it’s a 4 p.m. start out there. Sorry Vancouverites, ratings trump all and the Leafs bring the ratings.
To go through the statistical comparison of these two clubs is a little bit fruitless; Vancouver is in the top ten of most major statistical categories while the Leafs aren’t. The Canucks are 7-2-1 in their last ten and the Leafs are 4-5-1.
Jonas Gustavsson will get the start as Jean Sebastien Giguere’s groin troubles are flaring up again and becoming a real concern. James Reimer will back up Gustavsson and might end up getting his first career NHL regular season start at some point if Giguere is out for a significant number of games, which looks like a possibility given the injury’s recurrence.
Nazem Kadri will sit out tonight and so too will Brett Lebda, and the former scratching is bound to be much more controversial than latter. On Friday, Ron Wilson discussed with Bill Watters the possibility that Kadri’s weight gain (to 190lbs) is working against him as he is still being extricated from the puck with ease and seems to have lost a second gear speed-wise. I’d imagine Kadri will get another shot against the Thrashers on Monday before a decision is made as to whether or not he’ll stay up with the Leafs past Christmas.
Mike Komisarek will return to the lineup in Brett Lebda’s place and would benefit from a mistake free game back to try to restore some confidence in his game.
Hot as of late and always dangerous, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler are the major scoring threats from Vancouver and were thorns in the Leafs side in the 5-3 loss in Toronto on November 13.
Mikhail Grabovski is the Leafs’ hottest gun with 5 goals in his last 6. Arguably the most improved Leafs forward in 2010, the shots are starting to go in for Grabo. The line of Grabovski, MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin has been as consistently effective as any unit we’ve seen from the Leafs this season and face a tough test in beating Roberto Luongo tonight.