Back-to-back road games are among the most dreaded portions of the schedule, and the second of 2 games, in 2 nights, in 2 cities, is exactly what the Leafs will have to endure when they visit Atlanta this evening.
Fresh off the heels of a narrower-than-it-should-have-been escape out of Nashville, the Leafs have Ilya Kovalchuk and his dangerous supporting cast to look forward to this evening. Should they go ahead early in this one, the Leafs players will have to exert a much better effort protecting the lead than they did against the Predators.
- The early rumblings are that Vesa Toskala may get the start for Toronto. Now, before you panic, it is worth noting he made 22 saves en route to 5-2 victory at the ACC the last time these two teams met (Dec 7).
- Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start for the Thrashers. He allowed all 5 goals (all in the 2nd period) in the aformentioned game.
- The Leafs’ PK units must find a way to shut down Kovalchuk. Despite missing several games due to a foot injury earlier in the year, he ranks 10th in the league scoring race with 53 pts (28 G, 25 A) in 42 games played, and has scored 10 of Atlanta’s 34 powerplay goals.
- For the season, Atlanta’s powerplay ranks 10th in the league (19%). Their PK is vulnerable, however, ranking 21st in the league (80.2%).
- It would come as a mild surprise if tonght’s game were to end up being a low-scoring affair. Overall, the Thrashers rank 6th in goals for with 145 … but 27th overall in goals against with 153.Â We all know where the Leafs rank in that category.
- Pavelec, who is highly regarded as having a very bright future, has battled inconsistency this season, following up a brilliant performance with several mediocre outings on regular occasion.Â Such is the learning curve for a young goaltender (he is 22), and the Thrashers seem content to let him learn on the job.Â The Leafs would do well to crash the net with abandon to test his ability to maintain focus.
The Ex-Leafs Update
Nik Antropov is tied for 3rd on the Thrashers in scoring, with 38 pts (12 G, 26 A) in 44 games played and a team high +16 rating. Pavel Kubina is 6th in team scoring, with 25 pts (5 G, 20 A) and a +9 in 47 games played.
Wayne Primeau (knee) will be a game-time decision, while Mike Komisarek (shoulder) is likely to make his return on Thursday in Tampa Bay.
Update: Primeau will likely sit this one out, is expected to return Thursday. Komisarek will be back either Thursday or Saturday, depending on his progress over the next couple days.
Wingers Phil Kessel and Nik Hagman each broke lengthy scoring droughts by scoring against Nashville.Â Lee Stempniak and Alexei Ponikarvsky have played well offensively the past week, and will look to continue the trend against Atlanta.
Looking forward to your thoughts as always,