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For the third time this season (and this month) the New York Rangers will clash with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In their first two meetings (4-3 OT win Leafs / 2-1 win Rangers), each have conquered the other on the road. Toronto will look to avoid recent history repeating by earning the victory in this match-up at home, and someone will be sporting pink skates.

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Here are tonight’s lines courtesy of Pension Plan Puppets:

Versteeg – Bozak - Kessel
MacArthur – Grabovski - Kulemin
Sjostrom – Brent - Armstrong
Orr – Zigomanis – Brown

Beauchemin – Phaneuf
Kaberle – Komisarek
Gunnarsson – Schenn

Giguere
Gustavsson

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The shoe is on the other hoof for tonight’s Leafs-Sabres rematch at the ACC as the Leafs are putting just about their best foot forward and the Sabres are sitting much of their core group. The Leafs will dress their complete top six on the back end, with Kaberle-Komisarek, Phaneuf-Gunnarsson, and Beauchemin-Schenn making up the pairings. Jonas Gustavsson will go the distance in net and a near-complete four lines (with one question mark remaining at the third line centre position) will dress up front. The full line-ups and a few notes are after the jump.

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The Leafs won a game in the shootout. I’m as confused as you are. It was certainly an interesting one, going for 11 rounds before Colby Armstrong put Philadelphia out of their misery. Here are my game notes:

- The goaltending was great for the Leafs tonight, with Reimer in particular having a very strong performance. Both goals for Philly were flukey and both goalies played strong positional games. The shootout in particular was very impressive for Reimer, showing off his fast reflexes. Reimer is becoming a top goaltending prospect for the Leafs and his year with the Marlies should be very interesting.

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McKegg will be one to watch tonight

The Leafs face the Flyers tonight in London in what will surely be a physical endeavor. Paul Hendrick over at MapleLeafs.com has the lines for tonight’s game:

Forwards

Versteeg-Kadri-Armstrong

Caputi-Brent-Mueller

McKegg-Irwin-Boyce

Rosehill-Hanson-Brown

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After months of nothing but Kaberle rumours and Grabovski lawsuits, Leafs Nation will finally get a glimpse of their 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs.  Being the first game of the preseason, Toronto is going with a healthy mix of youngsters, borderliners, and veterans.  Luckily, fans will not have to wait to see most of the new Leafs (Clarke MacArthur excepted) as off-season acquisitions Versteeg, Armstrong, Brown and Lebda will all be hitting the ice.

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Why the Maple Leafs should make the playoffs in 2010-11‏

By: Joe Cino

Everything that could have gone wrong for the Maple Leafs in 2009-10 did. A combination of cold streaks, underperforming veterans, bad goaltending and a slew of injuries capped off a basement finish. The roster has been fine tuned, with additions like Giguere, Phaneuf and Versteeg chief among them, but by and large most of the roster is the same as last year’s iteration. With so many holdovers from the previous year, are the playoffs a realistic goal for the Maple Leafs? I believe that they are, with Corsi ratings, Goals versus Threshold and the realistic impact of the new Leafs taken into account.

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Bad news. According to the fine folks over at CapGeek, the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t the only team facing cap penalties next season. Here are the basics: a team is allowed to surpass the official salary cap by a “bonus cushion” maxmium of 7.5% for performance bonuses, such as those written into virtually every rookie contract. However, this number is then deducted from your maximum salary cap allowance for the following season.

For example, since winning the Cup, the Blackhawks received plenty of media attention when it was pointed out that Toews’ bonus for the Conn Smythe, among others, would push them well over the cap limit. As a result, the Blackhawks will face a $4.157 million penalty for this upcoming season. The Maple Leafs meanwhile will also have $1.4 million deducted from their limit this coming season, thus setting an internal budget at $58 million rather than the league wide $59.4 million.

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John Mitchell joins Nik Kulemin as the second Leaf to re-sign with the club today.  After initially not being qualified by Toronto, Mitchell hit unrestricted free agency with an understanding that Brian Burke intended to offer him a new contract.  The purpose of waiting was financially-driven as it allowed Toronto to save at the very least 250,000 on Mitchell because he was not qualified.

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    We’ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11. Next up we feature Christian Hanson, profiled by SkinnyFish.

    The Summary: Coming off of a stellar senior year at the University of Notre Dame, Hanson was one of three highly touted college free agents in the spring of 2009. The others being Matt Gilroy and Tyler Bozak.  Due to Notre Dame’s early departure from the NCAA tournament, Hanson was the first of those three players to sign with a pro club. Discussion was that the big 6′ 3″ Hanson had 2nd line potential and barring that would be a great 3rd line/checking line center.

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      - As already discussed earlier this week on MLHS, Mike Van Ryn is hoping to make a comeback to the NHL next season. Tim Wharnsby offers an interesting read: how Mike has been training diligently for a long-shot comeback attempt for one of the last two games this season. A shame it didn’t work out.

      - Continuing on with an already over-publicized story, the Toronto Star provides more “insight” into the inner workings of the NCAA Frat Pack of Bozak, Stalberg and Hanson. Basically, they’re friends on and off the ice. Groundbreaking.

      - Kevin McGran talks about Jonas Gustavsson’s Masterton Trophy nomination.

      - Some more love for Jerry D’Amigo, this time from Inside College Hockey, who named him to their Freshman All-American team as one of the top three freshman forwards in the entire nation.

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      Brian Burke has done an outstanding job of refacing the Leafs organization in a very short period of time.  I for one am predicting a very surprising season from the Leafs as early as next year or the year after, once again propelling them into the playoffs and a very respectable playoff drive.  The cumulative effort of acquiring several players and prospects that are “NHL ready” is absolutely and positively an impressive feat.  Acquiring a player with the pedigree of Dion Phaneuf for almost zero significant cost was sheer brilliance.  His relentless pursuit of, and ultimate acquisitions of players like Bozak, Hanson and Gustavsson inspire the type of confidence and hope that has been lacking in this city and in this franchise for almost a decade.

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      I have been listening and watching Toronto media members discuss the Maple Leafs and am honestly beyond annoyed at their commentary and observations around the Leafs performance since the trade deadline.  I am not even certain if this is “blog worthy” (shameless “sponge worthy” reference), but I have officially reached my “B.S.” tolerance threshold.

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        For the sixth and final time this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs will face their rivals, the Ottawa Senators, this time in enemy territory at Scotiabank Place.

        Tonight’s game will close out the season series between the two teams. The series currently stands at 3-2 in favor of the Leafs, who have won their past three against the Senators.

        The Leafs are coming off Sunday’s loss to the New York Islanders in which the players appeared completely spent (5 games in 8 days, culminating in back to back games, will have a negative effect on any club).  However, prior to that debacle, Toronto had won three in a row on merits of effort-laden, energetic play.  With a much-needed day off under their belts, the players will look to return to their winning ways with a strong effort against their bitter provincial rivals.

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        Alec’s Note: Please welcome Marlies writer Clayton Hansler, the newest member of the MLHS blogging team. Clayton has contributed freelance work to Leafs TV and is in regular contact with the Marlies club and personnel. We’re excited to have him. Welcome, Clatyon!

        The Ducks play spoiler to the blue and white… kind of. As the Marlies head down the stretch and zero in on the number four spot in the North West, Anaheim pulls a key contributor up to the big club. As if it’s not already hard enough watching talent on the baby buds knowing they’ll never develop into a Leaf.

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          As the playoff hopes gradually continue to fade for even the most optimistic of fans, the focal point of the Maple Leafs over the last few weeks has been on the stellar play of several key young players. Bozak, Kulemin and Kessel have been dynamic and dangerous in spurts as the team’s first line, building chemistry together and showing real signs of promise. Caputi, Hanson and Stalberg are giving indications that they could be part of a solid supporting cast someday, with strong board play, good size and tenacity in chasing down loose pucks. On the back end, Gunnarsson has been nothing short of a tremendous surprise, coming in mid-year as a 23 year old rookie, but playing with the poise of a 10-year veteran in over 21 minutes a night. But today, the focus will be on the more subtle progression of a another young blueliner who is reminding Toronto fans why the team took him with its highest draft selection in 20 years.

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            The Toronto Maple Leafs continue their homestand tonight against the visiting Oilers, in a game that marks former Leafs’ coach Pat Quinn’s return to the Air Canada Centre.

            The Oilers have had a disappointing season, to say the least, and are the leading contenders for the Hall/Seguin sweepstakes this summer. Edmonton fans are salivating at the thought of Taylor Hall one day lining up alongside Canadian Junior team hero Jordan Eberle, wearing copper and blue.

            For the time being, however, the Oilers are a team in the midst of yet another rebuilding phase, a process with which Leafs’ fans can certainly relate. In many ways, the two teams are quite similar: inconsistent youth, underachieving veterans, untimely injuries and weak goaltending have plagued both rosters throughout the season. The Leafs look to have begun the process of righting the ship; the Oilers will look to make similar moves (purging of veteran contracts in favor of youthful exuberance) during the summer.

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              There’s already some discussion going on in the threads, but let’s get all of that latest news out on the table:

              - TSN’s Darren Dreger recently tossed out his list of top 10 candidates to be moved at this year’s trade deadline, with Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky figuring in at the 4th and 5th spots respectively. He suggests that Stajan would perhaps yield “a decent prospect or drafts picks in return” and that Ponikarovsky would likely fetch a similar price. It’s always hard to gauge the trade deadline market as values fluctuate on a yearly basis, but I’ve got Ponikarovsky pegged as an Antropov comparable (2nd round pick) as a big body and 60 point player while Stajan may compare favorably to Moore (2nd round pick starting price) as a depth centreman who can put up some points in the right situation.

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                - The Toronto Marlies took a thrilling 5-4 shootout decision against the Chicago Wolves, with each of the College Frat Pack making an impact. Tyler Bozak recorded a goal and an assist, Stalberg scored once, while Hanson chipped in an assist. Defenseman Juraj Mikus added an assist and tallied the shootout winner.

                - Nazem Kadri continued his chippy play so far this season, receiving an abuse of the official misconduct in addition to a pair of assists in a 5-4 victory over his former club, the Kitchener Rangers. Elsewhere around the OHL, Jesse Blacker recorded a powerplay assist. Over in the QMJHL, Philliipe Paradis and Joel Champagne were both held off the scoresheet, while Mikhail Stefanovich managed an assist. There were rumors of a possible trade involving Stefanovich going to another junior team earlier today, but it doesn’t seem to have been the case.

                - Lastly, I’ve got a pair of Greens to Saturday night’s game (tomorrow) against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals that I’m looking to move at cost. Drop me an email if interested.

                [email protected]