GDT: Maple Leafs head to Long Island


Frank Gunn/AP

Lineup Note: Brett Lebda will play for the first time in 9 games, taking Carl Gunnarsson’s spot in the lineup. You have to wonder how Wilson justifies this to Gunnarsson. “You were one of five players out there for that Antropov goal. Take a seat and make way for Lebda and his -19 in 22GP.”

After last night’s 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers, the Maple Leafs head to Nassau Coliseum to take on the New York Islanders (Sportsnet, 7pm). The Leafs have been outscored 26-7 in losing five straight games on the road.

The Maple Leafs have also lost their last three games against the Islanders, scoring just one goal each time. They won’t have to face Dwayne Roloson, who routinely plays like a Vezina candidate against the Blue and White, as he was traded to Tampa Bay since the last time these two met. Kevin Poulin will get the start. John Tavares has not scored a goal in 9 straight games, but he has four in five career games against his hometown team.

Mired in a longer goal slump is Phil Kessel (11 games), but he is coming off just his ninth game this season in which he had a plus-rating, as he was +2 riding shotgun with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. By the way, the Leafs are 9-0-0 in those games.

When asked about Kessel’s new line, Ron Wilson had this to say:

“I watched every goal (Kessel) scored in Boston and he usually did it playing with two lefties (Marc Savard and Milan Lucic). So I gave Phil a chance with lefties on the ice (Grabovski and Kulemin).

Really, Wilson? Is this the best you can come up with? Well…it seemed to go alright last night, I suppose.

Let’s hope the Leafs can continue their improved play since the all-star break and James Reimer can bounce back with a win tonight. They’re going to need it too, as they have to go 20-8-1 the rest of the way to get to 90 points, which could get them into the playoffs.

And because why not, here’s a little trivia question: Who scored the last ever playoff goal at Maple Leaf Gardens? I’ll post the answer on twitter @SantosDan.