Regular season games in February don’t get much more ‘must win’ than this. The Capitals and Leafs sit tied at 65 points through 61 games, each one point back of the eighth placed Panthers, who are at 66 through 59. Despite being the third placed team at the moment virtue of the divisional rule, the Jets might be the real target, sitting at 68 points through 64 games after a loss to the Blues today. A loss tonight amplifies the pressure on Brian Burke to get something done by 3 p.m. on Monday, to be sure. The Leafs will look to ease some of the pressure and, dependent on the result in the Florida-Carolina game, get themselves back into a playoff position before the end of the night.
The Leafs made a change of personnel earlier today, losing the previously longest tenured Maple Leaf, Darryl Boyce, to the Columbus Blue Jackets over the waiver wire. Boyce was a good foot soldier for the Leafs and a good leader for the Marlies, so the Leafs were hoping this wouldn’t happen. Blame the recall limit rule, which I’m sure Burke had a few choice words for this afternoon. The Leafs brought up Matt Frattin, who will play in the place of Joey Crabb.
That means Colby Armstrong figures back into the proceedings tonight. This was the same guy we used to track the Leafs record with and without, remember? It has to be the fall out of a concussion, but his impact has been nonexistent so far, to the tune of zero points, five shots, and eleven hits in seven games since returning. The Leafs could really use the Armstrong that provides physical play and secondary scoring from the bottom six; the Armdog that chipped in 23 points and threw 90 hits in 50 games last season.
James Reimer returns to the pipes looking to build on an improved performance against San Jose. Â Reimer stopped all the shots he should’ve and gave the Leafs a chance to win on Thursday; the two goals came off a nice shot and a deflection by Patrick Marleau.
Michael Neuvirth starts for the Capitals.
The Leafs have gone a lousy 8-9 on Hockey Night in Canada this season. Blame Hughson and Healy.