Update: Darryl Boyce has been recalled as Grabovski will not play. Wilson will keep Kulemin and MacArthur together and have Boyce start between them.
Hot hand Mikhail Grabovski’s status for tonight’s game is questionable as it appears his significant other is in labour. According to Jonas Siegel, team services manager David Griffiths received a call from an excited and panicked Grabovski explaining in already imperfect English that his pregnant girlfriend is having contractions, and with Grabovski not responding to texts, it is assumed he is tending to her in the delivery room as we speak. The team remains hopeful Grabovski could play tonight but has a contingency plan in place to recall a Marlie to take his spot in the lineup.
The already goal-strapped Leafs would certainly miss Grabovski, who has eight goals in his last ten games, and according to Siegel so too will teammate and fan Colby Armstrong, who offered glowing praise of Grabovski’s diverse contributions to the team:
â€œYou donâ€™t learn to appreciate what a guyâ€™s like until youâ€™re with him every day. Seeing this guy play game in and game out the way he does, heâ€™s like a rocket up the middle every night. Heâ€™s taking no-look passes, look-back [passes], suicide [passes through the middle], heâ€™s going through, heâ€™s getting hit, heâ€™s getting up, heâ€™s banging guys, he gets in a mix-up at the end of the game the other night throwing â€˜em.”
Grabovski has certainly taken his offensive game to a whole new level this season, playing much more direct, driving the net and finishing on his chances, while maintaining that crazy Belorussian aura about him that Leafs fans have come to love. Congratulations on mini-Grabo, Mikhail. MLHS presents you with a pineapple as your baby shower gift.
That’s 300 words without mentioning the opponent for tonight – Rick Nash’s Columbus Blue Jackets, who enter the game on a six game road losing skid. Too often the Leafs play the role of tonic to the opposition’s woes but for once it would be nice to see the Leafs take advantage of an opposition’s weakness.
The Blue Jackets are one of the most physical teams in the league with 936 hits on the season. The not quite as truculent as advertised Leafs, 13th with 808 hits, will have to answer the physical challenge tonight.
Jonas Gustavsson starts his fifth consecutive game looking to wrap up a shaky December with a solid performance. The Leafs couldn’t seem to pull off wins when Gustavsson was at the top of his game in October and parts of November; his 2-5-0, 3.83 goals against average and .861 save percentage has done the Leafs no favours this month. The Leafs were 3-7-3 in November and are 5-6 in December; it will have to take a more balanced collaboration of the two if the Leafs are to make up ground in the second half of the season.
Steve Mason gets the start for Columbus. The third-year goaltender is in the midst of his worst season statistically with a 3.23 GAA and .900 save percentage. He is coming off of a 37-save win over Minnesota, however.
The tilt is the final action of the 2010 calendar year for the Maple Leafs – two points would be a nice way to head into a New Year of hopefully new and improved results.
Tonight’s lineup courtesy of who else but Jonas Siegel: