The Toronto Maple Leafs attempt to distance themselves from the Bruins tonight as they face the injury-laden Coyotes who remain five points out of a playoff spot (7 p.m, CBC).
The Leafs and Coyotes have switched roles since their last meeting three weeks ago: a 4-2 Arizona victory in Toronto. The Leafs were in the midst of their worst stretch of the season at the time, but have won seven-of-nine since. Arizona was in a good place, all things considered, but have won just three-of-nine since.
The storylines in Arizona have remained the same; a slew of injuries has them with a slim chance at the playoffs. Their numbers haven’t wavered too much over the course of the year, though they have found it harder to control play in their last few games. In shot attempt and scoring chance differential, they’re 17th and 22nd in the NHL this year. In their last five games they’re 26th and 27th in those same metrics.
The continued absence of Jason Demers means that Arizona is running with six left-handed defensemen for the time being. Jordan Oesterle, a 26-year-old making league-minimum, leads the team with eight points over the last ten games. Vinne Hinostroza leads the team in goals in that span with five.
Tyler Ennis will finally get back in the lineup tonight; Andreas Johnsson’s injury has opened up a spot for him. He will draw in on the right side of the bottom line, and we can expect to see him on the second powerplay unit tonight.
As was the case last time around, Darcy Kuemper is starting for the Coyotes in place of the injured Antti Raanta. Kuemper has performed at his career averages since arriving in Arizona. Losing Raanta for most of this season is rough, but Kuemper certainly hasn’t hindered the team to a severe degree. He owns a 13-14-5 record this year with a .911 Sv% and 2.9 GSAA.
Andersen, who is propelling himself into the Vezina conversation as the season goes on, starts again for Toronto. He’s won his last five starts and has a .923 Sv% this year and a GSAA of 19.1 — second only to Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Game Day Quotes
Babcock on the Coyotes’ PK:
They do a real good job. They pressure real hard. I think Hjalmarsson is one of the best penalty killers in the league, he was when he was in Chicago and is here now. They pressure hard, they forego, they make it hard on you and give you no time and space. In the end, they counter out of it and are dangerous. If you look at our last game, we gave up four grade A [chances] on the powerplay so it’s an area we have to clean up tonight.
Babcock on drawing penalties:
I’d like to tell you every time we skate good we get powerplays, but that’s simply not the case. I thought in Vegas we spent a lot of time in the o-zone and drew some penalties which is nice to see. This team plays much different, you’re not going to have as much room in the offensive zone so we’re going to have to be better in that way.
Babcock on getting Kapanen to use his speed more:
What I said to him when I met with him here a while ago is I showed him a bunch of clips, good and not good. I said ‘what do you do when you’re good?’ — ‘I skate’. So, he decided what it was so I’m encouraging him to do that.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#12 Patrick Marleau – #34 Auston Matthews – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#28 Connor Brown – #43 Nazem Kadri – #29 William Nylander
#26 Par Lindholm – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #63 Tyler Ennis
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Ron Hainsey
#51 Jake Gardiner – #23 Travis Dermott
#8 Jake Muzzin – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#31 Frederik Andersen
#40 Garret Sparks
Scratched: Justin Holl, Igor Ozhiganov, Andreas Johnsson (knee)
Arizona Coyotes Projected Lines
#17 Alex Galchenyuk – #25 Nick Cousins – #9 Clayton Keller
#14 Richard Panik– #21 Derek Stepan – #13 Vinnie Hinostroza
#36 Christian Fischer – #10 Jordan Weal – #83 Connor Garland
#67 Lawson Crouse – #15 Brad Richardson– #45 John Archibald
#23 Oliver Ekman-Larsson – #4 Niklas Hjalmarsson
#33 Alex Goligoski – #6 Jacob Chychrun
#44 Kevin Connauton – #82 Jordan Oesterle
#35 Darcy Kuemper
#30 Calvin Pickard
Injured: Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak, Micheal Grabner, Jason Demers, Antti Raanta, Mario Kempe