Back-to-back wins, goals aplenty and a red-hot powerplay…doesn’t sound like the Leafs does it? Â Toronto kicks off three (late) games in four nights with a 10:30 PM start today in Los Angeles. Â While the Leafs will look to continue their momentum, the Kings are aiming to get back on track after a skid that has seen them lose three of their last four matches. Â James Reimer will get the chance to continue his strong play, starting in net across from Jon Quick.
The Matchup Stats
There is no shortage of offensive threats on the Kings, as six forwards and one defensemen (Jack Johnson) are averaging a point per game or higher in their last three tilts. Â Johnson is also the recent recipient of a massive 7-year, $30.5 million contract extension that will yield a $4.3 million cap hit for the blossoming defender. Â The Leafs should be wary of Dustin Brown who is notorious for having excellent games against this Toronto franchise, having posted 5 points in his last 3 games against the Blue and White. Â One player Toronto will not have to worry about is Alexei Ponikarovsky. The ex-Leaf has been relegated to bottom-six duties on a deep Kings squad. Â Poni sees no time on the PP, and other than throwing his body around with his usual sporadic vigor, is not an impact player in L.A.
While the Leafs have a plethora of streaking forwards, Phil Kessel has very much enjoyed his games against the Kings, and can easily add to his recent 1.67 PPG against Los Angeles. Â With an offensive performance that has been at the very least “dissapointing” thus far, Dion Phaneuf may find some success against an opponent he played often while with the Flames. Â The Leafs captain has recorded a respectable 6 points in his last 12 games against the Kings, whilst averaging a mammoth 5:19 mins on the PP over that stretch.
The Kings are one of those dangerous teams that ranks in the top 10 for both goal scoring and hits. Â Terry Murray’s team will throw their bodies around with their collection of large forwards. Â Yet these same players (Brown, Simmonds, Stoll) can contribute offensively. Â Coupled with the more peripheral skills of Kopitar and Williams, Toronto’s defense will have to be exceptionally attentive tonight.
Since the Kings outmatch Toronto in virtually every statistical category, the Leafs will need to uphold their level of recent play to make this game competitive. Â The Grabovski line is undeniably hot, ranking second only to the Sedin(s) line in terms of productivity over the past month. Â With five forwards (Kessel, Grabovski, Kulemin, MacArthur, Versteeg) beyond or near 30 points on the season, the majority of Toronto’s top-six has made themselves clear. Â A player such as Tyler Bozak needs to come on strong in the second half of this campaign to establish some level of contention for that final spot amongst the club’s top forwards.
This gem from Colby Armstrong, when asked if he’d be wearing a visor for tonight’s tilt:
“I think Iâ€™m just going to wear these sunglasses, actually.”