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.
- Is it too early to refer to the Leafs as the Cardiac Kids? Four of their past five games have gone to overtime, resulting in three wins for the blue and white, including an absolute thriller Thursday night against Tampa Bay.
- Despite their struggles this season, and the losses of key players (Khabibulin, Souray, Hemsky) to injury, the Oilers still boast plenty of players who are capable of breaking out with a big game at any time. The Leafs can ill-afford to take the likes of skilled youngsters Gagner, Cogliano and Brule – the future of the Oilers – lightly.
- Dion Phaneuf is very familiar with the Oilers, from his days in the Calgary Flames organization, and has historically played quite well against them. The Oilers are a team comprised of smaller finesse players, and the key to shutting them down – which is also the key to Phaneuf’s past success versus Edmonton – is to get physical early and often.
- Just how similar are these two teams? Since the Olympic Break ended, the Leafs are 3-2-1 with 14 goals for and 18 against. The Oilers, meanwhile, have gone 2-3-1 in that span, with 14 goals for and 19 against.
- Jonas Gustavsson gets the start for the Leafs tonight, and has looked very good in both his starts (both wins) since returning from his stint as the backup goaltender for the Swedish Olympic team.
- Jeff Deslauriers is expected to start for the Oilers tonight. Deslauriers has had his moments this season, but an inconsistent glove hand continues to be his nemesis. He does a terrific job taking away the lower portion of the net, however, so Leafs forwards may be well-advised to aim high whenever possible.
- Jeff Finger stays in the lineup for the Leafs tonight, while Garnet Exelby is a healthy scratch. Frederik Sjostrom remains on the injured list.
- Expected Leafs forward lines:
Kulemin – Bozak – Kessel
Stalberg – Grabovski – Caputi
Mitchell – Hanson – Wallin
Lundmark – Primeau – Orr
- Expected Leafs defense pairings:
Beauchemin – Phaneuf
Kaberle – Schenn
Gunnarsson – Finger
|Goals For||161 (29th)||174 (22nd)|
|Goals Against||225 (30th)||223 (29th)|
|Powerplay %||17.7 (20th)||15.4 (t-28th)|
|Penalty Kill %||76.9 (27th)||72.1 (30th)|
|Leading After One||9-1-2||9-5-1|
|Trailing After One||5-22-2||8-19-3|
|Leading After Two||12-2-2||15-2-2|
|Trailing After Two||4-29-2||0-28-7|
Game Time: 7 pm
Radio: am640 Toronto, am900 CHML Hamilton