Having collected 9 of a possible 10 points in their last 5 games, and coming off back to back shut outs by James Reimer, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to move into 7th place in the East as they take on the surging Edmonton Oilers tonight at the ACC.
A new year has brought a new look to how the Leafs have been winning games.Â Stingy defense – evidenced by a perfect 2012 penalty kill and a goaltending tandem thatâ€™s combined for 4 shut outs â€“ has been the hallmark of the club.Â Since the year flipped over, the Leafs have gone 9 â€“ 4 â€“ 1 and have solidified themselves in the better half of the Eastern Conference.Â A win tonight will be 3 straight, and vault them over the idle and deflated Ottawa Senators (losers of their last 6) into 7th spot.
In Saturdayâ€™s outing against Ottawa, a 5 â€“ 0 victory, James Reimer stopped an astounding 49 shots to claim his second shut out in as many games and the Leafsâ€™ All Stars erupted for a combined 6 points.Â Phil Kessel led the way for the resurgent Leafs with 3 points (1G, 2A), after an extended all star break that saw the Madison, Wisconsin native register just 3 points in 10 games.Â Both he and line mate Joffrey Lupul lead the club in scoring with 54 points.Â Soon to be UFA and (therefore) trade rumour celebrity Mikhail Grabovski has been terrific, riding a 5 game point streak thatâ€™s seen him put up 3 goals and 7 assists.
Mike Komisarek is again expected to sit this game out tonight, as why tamper with any roster that has averaged three goals for, none against in their past 2 games.Â Reimer, who has all but reclaimed the Number 1 Starterâ€™s role in Toronto nets, will make his third consecutive start in goal.
The Oilers come into tonightâ€™s tilt with a 3 game winning streak on the line, yet sit 13th in the Western Conference with 47 points.Â Current NHL First Star of the Week Sam Gagner has rattled off an astounding 11 points (though it should be 10) in his past 2 games for Edmonton.Â While heâ€™s certainly accomplished a good many things, itâ€™s disillusioning to consider that his recent production is equal to 50% of his total production prior to those two games.Â Nonetheless, Reimer and the Leafs D will have their hands full the young, speedy top 9 of the Edmonton Oilers.
Sophomore Jordan Eberle leads his team with 22 goals and 52 points on the year, and tonight marks the first game wunderkind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play at the ACC.Â Though sidelined for the past several weeks with a shoulder injury, Nugent-Hopkins still leads NHL Rookie Scoring.Â Barring a stiff breeze, both Ryan Whitney and Ales Hemsky will be in the line up for the Oilers.
Devin Dubnyk is set to start again for the Oilers and has been instrumental to their 3 game winning streak, keeping the Oilers in the game with a .917 save percentage and a 3.23 Goals Against.Â In Edmonton, thatâ€™s good enough goaltending. Â Just like in the Gretzky days.
The game gets underway at 7 on Sportsnet.