Game Preview: Gleason debuts as Leafs seek home-ice rebound

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Photo: Getty Images

Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs vs New York Islanders

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ first blowout loss of the season came at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets back on November 25, a game much like Saturday night’s in that the team was plainly outworked from puck drop. After getting booed off the ice, the Maple Leafs were probably happy to take to the road for the three games afterward. Booed after each period en route to a 7-1 loss to the Rangers and apologizing after the game on Saturday, the Leafs won’t get the same reprieve tonight. With a tenuous hold on the final wildcard spot, the Leafs will need to bounce back on home ice against a team they should be able to beat in the New York Islanders.

Like the Rangers on Saturday, the Islanders will enter tonight playing the second game of a back to back. Unlike their New York counterparts, who were coming off a whopping at the hands of the Penguins, the Islanders are entering on a high note having dropped a touchdown on the Dallas Stars last night, a game featuring a hat-trick, five-point performance from John Tavares. Let’s hope the Islanders and JT are all goal-ed and points-ed out for tonight’s meeting.

Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson (and Nikolai Kulemin, who bodychecked Tavares face first into the referee’s groin) kept Tavares quiet in the Leafs-Islanders first meeting of the 2013-14 season. At the time, the Leafs were coming off a stretch in which they scored only eight goals in their previous six games before putting five past Kevin Poulin on only 24 shots. Two of which were outrageous snipes by Phil Kessel, who has five points in his last two games vs. the Islanders.

Carl Gunnarsson won’t be in the lineup for the Leafs tonight, and it looks like Tim Gleason will receive a sink or swim opportunity on the team’s top pairing next to Dion Phaneuf, at least to start the game. This is a shutdown pair we would have been really excited about in 2011-12, but where Gleason’s game is at is an unknown at best. With Gunnarsson out, pairing Gleason with the team’s most dependable defenceman could be a bold but clever move in helping Gleason find his footing in Toronto, or it could be an experiment that ends quickly and with a dismissive giggle. It will be interesting to monitor. Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly both played some shifts beside Phaneuf in the blowout loss to the Rangers; If Gunnarsson is out for more than this game, Gardiner and Phaneuf spending 25 minutes together throughout a game might be worth looking at.

David Clarkson is unlikely to play with his banged up foot after blocking a shot in the Rangers game. Clarkson played one of his better games of the season in the November 19 meeting with the Islanders, scoring his first goal as a Maple Leaf after a night of strong work on the forecheck. The remarkable part of it is that Carter Ashton, he of nearly a goal per game with the Marlies, hasn’t received a call up. It seems Fraser McLaren will play if Clarkson can’t go.

The Leafs have four games coming up vs. the Islanders, Hurricanes, Capitals and Devils, who have a combined record of 70 – 72 – 30. Points have to start adding up. In the lead up to the Olympic break starting in a month tomorrow, the Leafs will play 17 games over 30 days in a stretch of schedule that is not difficult in terms of strength of competition. We should have a pretty good idea of where this team stands come the Break.

Jonathan Bernier will start his sixth straight for the Leafs. Given he got the yank after five goals against in the first 35 minutes the last time out, here’s your brutally obvious statement of the day: Jonathan Bernier is Carlyle’s starting goaltender.

  • Xxxxxnew

    10 St. Louis Blues going to the Olympics. They’re screwed for the Cup.

  • Black Phantom

    gents, how many leafs were chosen for the Olympics?

  • VictorHoyles

    3?

  • Black Phantom

    Xxxxxnew Isn’t there 8 schabs going as well?

  • Black Phantom

    VictorHoyles Kessel, JVR and who?

  • VictorHoyles

    Kuli.

  • Xxxxxnew

    Could be. Just thinking 10 is half the team. GM s were talking this week about huge letdown after last Olympics.

  • Black Phantom

    VictorHoyles Kule :) thanks

  • Xxxxxnew

    Petr Nedved? He’s 42 and last played a full Nhl season 10 years ago. Odd Czech pic considering the NHLers not taken.

  • Xxxxxnew

    Oddity of the day. Petr Nedved is suiting up for the Czechs in Sochi at 42 years of age. When he was a kid he escaped communist Czechoslovakia to come to Canada. He became a citizen and actually suited up for Team Canada at the 94 Olympics and won a silver.

  • Mind Bomb

    Black Phantom Xxxxxnew They were never in contention for a Cup, a used Jock strap is about all they will get

  • wendelsway1

    GO LEAFS GO!!….big win in regulation tonight.  Looking forward to watching Gleason in the line up.

  • Thedoor29

    Xxxxxnew I thought once you suited up for one country you could not suit up for another

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Going to the game tonight with my dad.  Might bring some waffles with me.

  • vinoa

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Bring a box of cookies for Phil.

  • ProfessorRance

    Wow surprised Bernier is getting the nod tonight but on the other hand I am not. We should get value back while we can. The guy is a number one goalie.

  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Xxxxxnew Quite a few Red Wings too.

  • wendelsway1

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan To me, it’s the times when our Boys aren’t playing well when they need our support the most.  I vaped for you…..please cheer for me…….and don’t wast waffles, throw them at Healy.  :)

  • mr_hanie

    Another 40 plus shots against the Leafs. ????  Just like the 1980’s again. Leafs will have 20 shots but still win 4-2

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    I will never give up on the Boys.  And, if you hear someone cursing at either Healy or Mike Johnson through your TV……it’s probably me.

  • wendelsfist

    mr_hanie The leafs have better odds of winning if we get outshot

  • wendelsway1

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Where you sitting tonight?

  • mr_hanie

    wendelsfistmr_hanie Of course 20 of the 40 shots against will come from the points….

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Mid section greens….around the blue line.  Although, my dad will likely be scoping some empty seats in the golds or reds during the 1st period….then we move up for the 2nd and 3rd (if we don’t get stopped by security which tends to happen from time to time).

  • wendelsway1

    Some very cocky fans in the TSN comments….Tavares is going to school our team, etc., etc…….I will not post on that site but know that some here do….if you’re one of these posters, please try and post a picture of JT being taken out by Kule……you know, the ref crotch shot pic……should shut them up…..lol  :)

  • wendelsfist

    wendelsway1 How about Kadri’s hat trick last year against Taveres and the NYI.   Also didn’t Phaneuf introduce taveres to the end boards in one game

  • darthNihilus

    I anticipate another loss tonight. Not because I am pessimistic but because there needs to be a change in Randy Carlysle’s system that hems us in our own zone and does not allow us any o-zone time. Until that change is made or the current system is modified we will continue to lose, regardless of who is playing with Dion.

  • drummond

    Thedoor29Xxxxxnew  It is actually possible. You need to have a dial citizenship and once you played for country A (in Nedved case Canada) and you wish to play for country B you have to play 4 full years in its country league to become eligible. Nedved has been playing in the Czech Republic 6 years now.

  • wendelsway1

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Was really hoping you’d be close enough to Healy to waffle him….lol  :)

  • wendelsfist

    darthNihilus This is the chicken and egg problem.  That is, the leafs get no o zone time because they are stuck in the d zone.  Or the leafs are stuck in their  d zone because he can’t sustain o zone pressure.   Maybe a bit of both going on

  • wendelsfist

    I think Reimer should be starting tonight as neither goalie has shown they dependable.

  • mr_hanie

    darthNihilusI just don’t like their D-men shooting the puck at our net, just like they were at the shooting range at the golf course… no pressure—just shoot away at will.

  • wendelsway1

    wendelsfist wendelsway1 I just thought Tavares’ head in a ref’s crotch would stir it up quite well……since nobody on our team can contain him   😉

  • mr_hanie

    wendelsfistReimer gives up more rebounds from point shots, under Randy’s system

  • darthNihilus

    wendelsfist darthNihilus its a problem of transition. From D zone out. We are unable to clear pucks and we are unable to skate pucks out. When we do, we cannot maintain O zone pressure. So you are right the problem is actually 3-fold.

  • mcloki

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Just wear a plyon on your head in the crowd. Kreider made the D look like pylons on Saturday night.

  • wendelsfist

    mr_hanie wendelsfist  They are pretty close in the total amount of goals.  Reimer has more battle though.

  • darthNihilus

    wendelsfist I would also start Reimer, but RC is the coach. It helps no one if Bernier has another blowout game.

  • wiski

    https://twitter.com/NormanJamesCTVhttps://twitter.com/NormanJamesCTV/status/420657600993062912
    David Clarkson may not play tonight. The sad thing is, it doesn’t matter. https://twitter.com/MikeInBuffalo

  • darthNihilus

    wiski Don’t we have a better record with him OUT of the lineup? lol

  • NotSince67

    GTHL Top Prospects game tonight  Herb Carnagie, 7:30 puck drop.

  • wendelsfist

    darthNihilus wendelsfist This reminds me of playing Jenga.  You move one player or change part of the system and you risk the entire team collapses

  • wiski

    Carolina and Buf got PPD so the canes should be rusty by thursday

  • wendelsfist

    darthNihilus wiski Probably because he missed the leafs hot start at the beginning of the year.

  • wiski

    darthNihilus wiski I think we do, call up Ashton

  • wendelsway1

    wendelsfist I think both are well on their way to being starters, if not already, and either goalie can get us the win provided our team shows up to play.  Personally, I’d switch it up and play Reimer but a case can be made for either goalie……Just win, Baby!

  • wendelsfist

    wiski what day is it rescheduled for?

  • wiski

    wendelsfist wiski no news yet

  • mr_hanie

    Fourth line of Orr- Mclaren -Holland, may never see the ice if Islanders score first.

  • wendelsfist

    mr_hanie What is sad for Randy is that no Clarkson in the game means we play Mclaren.  Poor Holland.