Toronto will face off against the newly reincarnated Jets at the Air Canada Centre tonight. Â Winnipeg finally picked up their first win of the season on their fourth try, having scored only 7 goals over that span. Â Offense will be a struggle all year long for a Jets team that features former Leafs Nik Antropov and Kyle Wellwood in their top six. Â At the other side of the ice, the Leafs have their usual set of publicized “concerns” that evaporate as quickly as they arise in the early days of hockey season in Toronto. Â As such, there’s a number of storylines going into tonight’s matchup, with the biggest being: will the Grabovski line start scoring soon? (spoiler: the answer is yes.) Â Has Luke Schenn lost his way? Â Did the Jets need to charter two separate planes to carry both Byfuglien and Wellwood?
Yes, these are all ridiculous questions mired in hyperbole. Â Different city, different jersey, but these are the same Atlanta Thrashers that have seemed to engage the Leafs in some exciting, high-scoring affairs in recent years. Â James Reimer will get the start in net tonight and Jake Gardiner will draw back into the lineup at the expense of Cody Franson.
If there’s been a game for the Grabovski line to silence the growing rumble of their doubters, it’s tonight’s matchup against a club they dominated last season. Â Mac in the USSR torched the former Thrashers for 23 points (12 goals) in four contests in 2010-2011. Â The players themselves are keeping the right mindset despite the relentlessÂ beating of dull media questioning, insisting they know that they’ll produce and that they just have to maintain their work ethic. Â Work ethic will also have to be the trademark of Nazem Kadri’s game, after his demotion to the Marlies earlier today. Â With Tim Connolly also returning soon, there will be some interesting lineup decisions to be made in short order.
One force on the Jets that the Leafs will have to account for is their goalie, Ondrej Pavelec. Â Pavelec has his inconsistencies and has had to deal with injuries in the past, but is capable of putting up stretches of game-changing goaltending. Â Toronto will look to get to Pavelec quickly, as he turned in a magnificent, focused showing against Pittsburgh two nights ago that usually belies an impending streak of hot play. Â Either way, tonight will be an important opportunity for Toronto to gather some momentum before they embark on their first road games of the year.
Maple Leafs Lineup
Lupul-Bozak-Kessel MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin Frattin-Lombardi-Armstrong Dupuis-Steckel-Brown
Gunnarsson-Phaneuf Liles-Schenn Gardiner-Komisarek
Ladd-Little-Wheeler Burmistrov-Antropov-Wellwood Kane-Scheifele-MacLean Glass-Slater-Thorburn
Byfuglien-Enstrom Bogosian-Stuart Meech-Oduya