Update: James Reimer will get the start despite hints to the contrary. Joffrey Lupul will slide to the third line while Tyler Bozak will center a line with Kadri and Kessel on the wings (too much of the same?). Should be interesting. Grabovski is wearing a well-deserved ‘A’ in Armstrong’s absence.
The situation is this: the New Jersey Devils continued their miraculous leap up the standings with another two points last night, surpassing .500 and tying the Leafs on points with a game more to play (not even mad, just impressed). Carolina defeated Buffalo in regulation meaning the Leafs stand six back of the eighth-placed Sabres and four back of Carolina, even on games with both teams. The Leafs win and they’re two back of Carolina and four back of Buffalo with a matchup against the Sabres left on the schedule. They lose and any remaining playoff aspirations are squashed. That simple.
The loss of Colby Armstrong has seen a return of Nazem Kadri to the lineup as he gets his first appearance in a Leafs uniform since late December. Refreshingly, the 20-year-old will get an initial shot alongside top six talent.Â According to Jonas Siegel‘s tentative lineup, Kadri will center Lupul and Kessel to start as Tyler Bozak is bumped to the third line:
*Ron Wilson has plenty of options for his lineup against the Hurricanes. With Nazem Kadriâ€™s insertion into the lineupâ€”likely with Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kesselâ€”Wilson may slide Tyler Bozak into the three hole and move Darryl Boyce to the wing. He could also choose to bump Freddie Sjostrom up to play with Bozak and Joey Crabb, sitting Boyce and inserting Jay Rosehill onto the fourth line with Tim Brent and Mike Brown. Wilson hinted at J.S. Giguere getting the start with James Reimer to follow on Thursday.
Matt Lashoff will step in for Brett Lebda (hold your applause) as Ron Wilson hopes he’s found a reliable bottom pairing defenceman that can be trusted with a decent amount of minutes at the relief of an overtaxed top four. It’s astonishing but Lebda and Komisarek at a combined $5.85 million haven’t been able to capably supply a few extra shifts beyond their usual 13 minutes apiece. Wilson will also likely try out his two recent callups on the powerplay, which has only one goal in its last 24 opportunities.
(Updated scouting reports on Nazem Kadri and Matt Lashoff here).
Jean Sebastien Giguere is likely to get his first start since February 12th in Montreal as James Reimer gets some much-needed rest before returning to the pipes tomorrow against Florida. In his interviews since the shelling against Tampa Bay, Wilson said he saw fatigue as a chief factor in Reimer’s less than stellar performance and downplayed the worry that the book is out on the rookie to go glove hand high, a weaker area of Reimer’s game. Reimer has split 41 games between the Marlies and the Leafs this season, the most he’s played in a season since 2006-07 with Red Deer, so let’s hope Wilson’s right and a little rest is just what the doctor ordered. While the sample size is small, Reimer has in every case bounced back from a bad outing so any concern for Optimus at this stage has to be considered premature.
As for Giguere, I haven’t been able to feel comfortable with him in net since the calendar turned November and it’s gotten worse since the latest groin flare ups. In his most recent appearances (now over a month ago) the Leafs appeared to feel the same and have looked a team that lacks confidence in its goaltender. Giguere making a few saves early could help the Leafs settle into their game instead of playing like every potential mistake will mean a faceoff at centre ice.