Tonight the Leafs will shouldÂ be desperate for a win, as they cling to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Â The players have acknowledged that their trip out west left much to be desired. Â They have vowed to come out strong here at home as they know that even the awful play of Alex Ovechkin won’t be able to keep the Washington Capitals below them much longer if they keep losing at this rate. Â They’ll be in tough against a New Jersey team that has ripped off eight ROW wins in their last ten games and have consequently surged up the standings.
The Devils have seen success recently, partly due to the steady play of Martin Brodeur, who has been dominant since gettingÂ embarrassedÂ in Calgary last month. Â The goaltending legend is showing that he can still play at an elite level, going 3-0-0 with a 0.956 SV% over the past week. Â Thankfully, Brodeur hasn’t played his best games against Toronto in recent years, a trend that hopefully continues tonight.
The other factor in New Jersey’s success has been the resurrection of Ilya Kovalchuk (ok…he wasn’t that bad last year) and the return of Zach Parise. Â After a slow start, Kovalchuk has been a dominant force, leading the NHL in avg ice time as a forward and sitting seventh in shots on goal. Â Second in the NHL in avg ice time and ninth in shots on goal? Zach Parise.
Wait, two 300+ shooters can coexist on the same line without a black hole opening at center ice? Â These two players have coexisted and thrived with a fantastic complementary center in Adam Henrique (the three as a line have accounted for 32% of Kovalchuk’s total output). Â They all play a determined and skilled game at both ends of the ice, and should receive special attention from Dion Phaneuf tonight.
Mike Komisarek will once again be a healthy scratch. With the recent efforts of Steve Yzerman to ship out players that were no longer needed in Tampa one has to wonder if Brian Burke would ever be able to accomplish the same with Komisarek. Â This will be challenging of course, because Kubina, Moore and Downie all had that special something called “value”. Â Carl Gunnarson will return to the lineup tonight, providing that calming force for Phaneuf in their efforts to contain the Parise line.