Game Preview #30 - Leafs vs Hurricanes
For the first time in what feels like a long time, the Toronto Maple Leafs (15-11-3) will be back in action tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes (9-18-4). On the heels of two consecutive losses and a 1-4-2 record at home in their last seven games, the Leafs must take advantage of the Eastern Conference's worst team. Having dropped a tough road game against Carolina earlier this season, tonight's match up is one in which the Leafs need to rebuild some confidence. Although the buds were the stronger team in their last two losses, six power play goals against were their downfall. The Hurricanes enter tonight 26th overall on the PP, making this a prime opportunity for the reeling penalty killing unit to get back on track.
There has been no word yet (update James Reimer to start) as to who will start tonight in net for the Leafs, but I fully expect Reimer to get the nod in between the pipes. As I've said many times before this team will only go as far as Reimer takes them, making it imperative that they get him back in shape as fast as possible. There will be a slight alteration to the forward lines tonight, as rookie Matt Frattin will switch spots with Clarke MacArthur. Frattin will line up beside Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin on a line that looked great versus the New Jersey Devils last Tuesday. MacArthur play with Tim Connolly and Colby Armstrong.
With Eric Staal still struggling (19 points in 31 games) and Hurricanes leading scorer (and Mr.Everything) Jeff Skinner will be out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury, tonight's game is one in which the Leafs defense should control the play in their own zone. Unless Cam Ward completely steals this one the Leafs should end the night with two points.
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel
Frattin - Grabovski - Kulemin
MacArthur - Connolly - Armstrong
Dupuis - Steckel - Crabb
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Gardiner - Schenn
Liles - Franson
Tlusty - Staal - Dwyer
Ponikarovsky - Jokinen - Ruutu
Bowman - Sutter - LaRose
Nodl - Brent - Stewart
Gleason - McBain
Spacek - Faulk
Joslin - Allen
Players to Watch
Leafs: Phil Kessel - Sitting second overall in points (36) and tied for first in goals (18), the Leafs leading sniper should take advantage of this reeling Hurricanes squad. Look for Kessel and Lupul to have a big night tonight.
Hurricanes: Brandon Sutter - A player who seems to always stand out against the blue and white, Sutter will need to pick up the offensive slack while Skinner is out. With Staal struggling and Skinner injured someone needs to score for this team.
Game Time: 7:00 at the Air Canada Centre. TV - Sportsnet Ontario. Radio - AM640.