Update: John Mitchell will step in for Kris Versteeg on the second line, who can’t go tonight due to a sore back. Should be interesting to see if Mitchell can bring some size and forecheck/board play ability to that line. Mike Zigomanis will line up at fourth line centre.
Are the Maple Leafs‘ winning ways back in front of them? Has their controversial victory over the Florida Panthers moved the club back into a mean streak? The scoring is certainly present for forward Phil Kessel, but the Leafs still need to stay aggressive in the offensive zone. Tonight, they’ll face their biggest challenge (in goal) as Tim Thomas leads the league in both goals against average (0.75) and save percentage (0.978). Thomas has yet to lose a game this season and the Leafs will hope to put a dent in that stat in particular. Thomas has played a large part of it (he’s undefeated at 4-0 whereas Rask is 0-2 so far) but the Bruins’ stingy defence boasts the lowest goals against per game total (1.83) in the league six games into the season.
The game will also present an interesting but what is sure to be overhyped story. Phil Kessel, acquired from Boston last year for a few draft picks, will face-off against the player selected 2nd overall at the recent NHL Entry Draft – Tyler Seguin. In a clash of future vs. present, Kessel hopes his difficulties against the Bruins are behind him so he may prove a point to Bruins and Leafs fans alike.
Toronto will be without forward Colby Armstrong (4 to 6 weeks) after he suffered a slash on the hand on Tuesday night against the Panthers. Luca Caputi was called up to take his spot on the third line. Kris Versteeg is questionable with a day-to-day back problem and John Mitchell will be prepared to step into the line-up if he can’t go.
The last three games these two clubs have played against each other have gone past the 60 minute mark, but the Bruins finished the 09-10 season with a 4-1-1 record against the Leafs (2-2-2). In fact, the Bruins have only lost 13 games to the Leafs since the lockout, posting a victory-vs.-leafs record of 23 wins.
Jonas Gustavsson will start for the Leafs. He’s 1-1-1, but his appearances seemed to have coincided with the Leafs’ worst performances of the season so far. He’s given the Leafs a chance to win in all three games and that’s what a good goalie does.
Who’s Hot? Leafs:
Phil Kessel (RW) 6 pts in last 5 GP
Nikolai Kulemin (LW/RW) 2 pts in last 2 GP
Clarke MacArthur (LW) 8 pts in last 8 GP
Who’s Hot? Bruins:
Nathan Horton (RW) 9 pts in last 6 GP
David Krejci (C) 6 pts in last 5 GP
Milan Lucic (LW) 6 pts in last 6 GP
Tim Thomas (G) 4-0-0, 0.75, .978 in last 4 GPI
I will be liveblogging the game tonight, so be sure to join in on the discussion!
Micheal A. Aldred