The Toronto Maple Leafs visit the St. Louis Blues tonight, in the Leafs’ final game prior to the NHL’s Olympic break.
The Leafs are coming off a narrow loss to the West-leading San Jose Sharks, a game which left the team with much to feel good about. Â Tonight, the team will look to resolve their road woes and enter the break on a high note, by capitalizing on what has been an inconsistent and underachieving Blues squad.
- Although much scrutiny and anticipation has surrounded the respective futures of several players on both teams, neither the Leafs nor the Blues made any moves at today’s “pre-Olympic trade deadline”.
- The Leafs have struggled mightily on the road this season (8-17-6), and are currently in the midst of a five-game road losing streak (0-3-2).
- The Blues have struggled at home this season (10-16-5), but are coming off a home shootout victory over Detroit, which was preceded by four straight losses (0-2-2) in their own arena.
- At the start of the season, the Blues were lauded for having assembled one of the deepest forward groups in the league. However, beyond Andy McDonald (18 goals) the group has struggled to meet expectations, with key players Keith Tkachuk (12 goals), Paul Kariya (12 goals), Brad Boyes (10 goals), David Perron (15 goals), T.J. Oshie (11 goals), David Backes (13 goals) and Patrick Berglund (8 goals) all producing well below expectations.
- Former Leaf forward Alex Steen has found a niche in St.Louis, and unlike most Blues’ forwards has exceeded expectations this season with 14 goals in 47 games played.
- However, in light of their inconsistency this season, the aforementioned group has shown in various games that any of its members are capable of a big game at any time, so the Leafs would be well-advised to tread carefully regardless of the stat sheet.
- Despite their struggles, the Blues remain only 6 points out of a playoff position. However, they are 13th in the Western Conference standings, with 5 teams standing in the way of the eighth and final playoff spot. Â Expect an inspired performance by the Blues as they cannot afford to lose ground in the Western Conference dogfight.
- Chris Mason gets the start for St. Louis. Â Mason is the reason the Blues are still in playoff contention, posting a respectable 2.59 GAA and .910 SV% in 43 games played.
- Leafs goaltender J-S Giguere gets the call in net tonight. Â Giguere has been outstanding as a member of the Leafs, posting 2 shutouts his first two games before allowing 3 goals in the loss to San Jose. Â The San Jose performance is noteworthy as two of the three goals deflected off Leafs’ players, and the third was the product of a fortuitous bounce off a skate to the open side of the net.
- Frederik Sjostrom and Christian Hanson return to the Leafs lineup tonight, after recovering from a case of food poisoning suffered just prior to the game against San Jose. Â “I’ve always told players, don’t eat seafood if it flew farther than you to get there,” quipped Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson.
- Accordingly, Nazem Kadri, whose play was encouraging during his emergency recall, has been returned to the OHL’s London Knights.
- Anticipated lines:
1st: Ponikarovsky – Bozak – Kessel
2nd: Stalberg – Hanson – Stempniak
3rd: Kulemin – Wallin – Sjostrom
4th: Mitchell – Primeau – Orr
- Anticipated defensive pairings:
Beauchemin – Phaneuf
Kaberle – Gunnarsson
Exelby – Schenn
- Jeff Finger (9 pts, -12, 30 games) is expected to be a healthy scratch for the seventh straight game.
|Goals For||150 (t-24th)||161 (13th)|
|Goals Against||165 (16th)||202 (30th)|
|Powerplay %||16.9 (24th)||17.4 (t-20th)|
|Penalty Kill %||85.3 (4th)||71.2 (30th)|
|Leading After One||10-4-2||9-5-1|
|Trailing After One||5-13-1||5-16-3|
|Leading After Two||18-2-6||15-2-2|
|Trailing After Two||2-18-3||0-25-6|
Game time: 8pm EST
Radio: AM 640 (Toronto), AM 900 (Hamilton)