Things are rotten in Uniondale.
John Tavares is injured, and while the International Olympic Committee will compensate the Isles by covering his salary for the balance of the injury layoff, Garth Snow also wants the IOC to just kind of give money to their season ticket holders because the team sucks.
For now it seems Snow and Jack Capuano will play Thomas Vanek, who is expected to be dealt prior to the deadline after refusing a contract offer earlier this month. Same goes for their leading-point producing defenceman Andrew MacDonald, another player in need of a contract and soon to be dealt. Third-leading point scorer Frans Neilsen is out hurt.
A team with nothing to play for can sometimes be a dangerous team and play spoiler when the games tighten up down the stretch. Especially if there’s some players playing up the lineup, hungry for the opportunity and not really expected to win. Whatever the case, the Isles are a tire fire, lost six of seven before the Break and are now without their franchise player; it’s two points the Leafs really should have to kick off the final stretch of the playoff race.
The Leafs left off with two consecutive victories and 11 wins in their last 14. JvR has ten points in his last nine and Kessel has 26 points in his last 15.
The only addition to the lineup from the group the Leafs left off with will be Trevor Smith on the Leafs’ fourth line. The Leafs may go three lines plus McClement and Smith as their 10th and 11th forwards while continuing to play Paul Ranger as the seventh defenceman, as they did in their final two games before the Olympic Break, both wins.
Nikolai Kulemin will remain at center for tonight, centering Troy Bodie and Mason Raymond.
Jonathan Bernier will start. He’s started in nine of the Leafs’ last ten wins and posted a .971 save percentage in the last two games before the Break, stopping 75 of 77 shots faced.
Evgeni Nabokov will start for the Islanders. He’s 3-0-1 against the Leafs in his last four starts but hasn’t faced the Leafs yet this season.
Thanks as always to Daily Faceoff for the lineup graphics.