Game Preview: Leafs Go West

Game Preview: Leafs Go West

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A 9 p.m. EST start for the Leafs vs. Oilers tonight as Toronto gets its three-game road swing through Western Canada kicked off in Edmonton.

In their last meeting on Thanksgiving weekend, the Leafs capitalized on Edmonton’s tenuous hold on leads late in hockey games and stole a win out from under Dallas Eakins’ team. The Leafs were down 5-4 with under a minute to go before Lupul put another soft one through Devin Dubnyk (also thanks to an amazing diving Bernier glove save on Mark Arcobello that would’ve sealed the game). Bolland, sensing the opportunity to score an important goal, finished the game in OT.

The game was river hockey, littered with odd man opportunities and traded chances, and featured basically zero physical play. With David Clarkson back and the Leafs finding success against the Penguins on Saturday in part thanks to a ratcheting up of the physical factor – first to pucks and winning more one-on-one battles – that hopefully will not be the case tonight.

The Oilers have lost Taylor Hall to injury since the two teams met in early October, but have since got center Sam Gagner back in the lineup. Twice-scratched Nail Yakupov has been playing on the top line in Hall’s place with Gagner and Eberle.

On the road, the Leafs would be best to finish their checks, slow the Oilers down, play a tighter game, and capitalize on the inevitable mistakes committed by this Oilers team. The Leafs aren’t beyond getting into a goal-for-goal shootout either, so it will be interesting to see what direction this game takes.

With a hilarious .880 team save percentage, the Oilers turned to third-string goaltender Richard Bachman on Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings, and he was positively lights out in stopping 47 shots in a shootout loss – including 28 saves in the third period alone to grab the Oilers an undeserved loser point. Hopefully the Leafs’ high-percentage shooting brings Bachman down to Earth, but it’s possible the Leafs could be running into the 5’10″ former Stars backup at the wrong time. He had a .885 SV% in 13 games with the Stars last season.

James Reimer will be in net for the Leafs, of course, because he was the team’s first star in stopping 37 of 38 shots on Saturday night. With a good showing tonight, Carlyle would likely go to Bernier tomorrow in Calgary, as it is a back to back, and then return to Reimer on Saturday vs. the Canucks.

Reimer is 2-0-0 against the Oilers in his career, with two wins in the span of ten days against the Oilers in February of 2012. He stopped 56 of 62 shots (.903 sv%).

Joffrey Lupul is considered a game time decision with his bruised foot bone. He scored twice in the Leafs’ 6-5 overtime win against the Oilers on Thanksgiving weekend, including the dramatic late tying goal.

If Lupul can’t go, I would expect the exact same lineup Carlyle iced on Saturday. If he plays, one would imagine he will join Bolland and Clarkson on line two with Raymond bumped to line three, although Carlyle has liked Raymond next to Bolland and Lupul was skating with Ashton and McClement on line three in practice.

John Michael Liles, called up as an extra defenceman for the Western road trip, is not expected to play tonight.

 
Leafs
Oilers
Record8-4-03-8-2
GF/G3.25 (5th)2.69 (17th)
GA/G2.50 (9th)3.77 (30th)
SF/G26.9 (29th)27.7 (26th)
SA/G34.9 (28th)31.4 (19th)
PP26.7% (3rd)13.3% (24th)
PK85.1% (6th)75.5% (29th)
5 on 5 F/A1.10 (11th)0.81 (23rd)
Sh%12.1% (3rd)9.7% (10th)
Sv%92.8% (5th)88.0% (30th)
FO%44.5 (28th)51.8 (12th)

Last Meeting:

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]