A few notes before we get into the game preview:
– In his 30 thoughts blog this week, Elliotte Freidman revealed a somewhat disconcerting detail in the Mikhail Grabovski contract negotiations, suggesting that agent Gary Greenstin has named Phil Kessel’s $5.4 million as his starting asking price. Granted, it’s a basic negotiating tactic to start high, but it makes you wonder just how big of a gulf there is between the asking price and what Burke and co. are willing to offer. For a 28-year-old player with only one 50+ point season to his name entering his contract season, $5.4M is bordering on asinine.
– Rick Nash has submitted a shortlist of five or less desirable destinations to Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson. On the possible teams included, Bob McKenzie could only channel Eklund: “the four or five teams could come from a group that includes Boston, the Rangers, Philadelphia, San Jose, Toronto, and perhaps Vancouver and/or Los Angeles. That isn’t to say there aren’t others like Nashville or St. Louis, who are perhaps more interested than some of those others, and maybe even better positioned in terms of assets and finances to pull it off.”
Brian Burke returns to the scene of the crime with stolen goods Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aulie for a late 9 p.m. puck drop in Calgary.
Jonas Gustavsson returns to the Leaf net and Mike Komisarek draws into the lineup in place of the injured Carl Gunnarsson as the Leafs kick off a three game road swing through Western Canada. The Leafs have recalled Aulie to serve as the team’s seventh defenceman on the trip.
Gunnarsson suffered an ankle injury after taking a hit from Jay Rosehill in practice, and was placed on IR today. As it turns out, the sprain was not as bad as initially feared, but his placement on the IR will put him out the lineup for at least seven days.
The Flames have been thinned up front by injuries to forwards Mikael Backlund, David Moss, Curtis Glencross, and Lee Stempniak, but remain in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, sitting three points back of eighth-placed Phoenix with a game in hand. The Leafs and Flames sit in pretty similar positions at the 56-game mark, except the Leafs are young and improving while the Flames’ two leaders in Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff are nearing retirement and the team lacks much of a future.
The Leafs have gotten some help to remain in a playoff spot despite a loose one-point grip, and must start picking up points again soon or that won’t be the case for long.
Wilson will try Connolly on the wing alongside Grabovski and MacArthur as he looks to get the club’s struggling summer signing back on track offensively. Kulemin drops down onto the third unit with Lombardi and Crabb, while Colby Armstrong remains a healthy scratch for the second straight game.
With Gunnarsson out, Mike Komisarek will unite with Dion Phaneuf in what will be a big opportunity for Komisarek, who has been a healthy scratch the last six games.
On the out of town scoreboard, Leafs Nation will be hoping for Tampa Bay (over Ottawa), New York Islanders (over Winnipeg), and Buffalo (over New Jersey) wins tonight.
From The Score:
The Maple Leafs hope to avoid posting their longest skid of the season this evening and snap a six-game road losing streak to the Flames in the start of their trip through Western Canada.
Toronto has posted losing streaks of three games on five separate occasions this year, but hasn’t lost four in a row since Nov. 26-Dec. 2 of last season. Still, the city of Calgary isn’t the best of places for it to start a three- game road trip given that the Maple Leafs haven’t won there since Dec. 27, 2002.