Game #11 Preview - Senators vs Leafs

It has been a long time since Toronto Maple Leafs (7-2-1) and the Ottawa Senators (6-5-0) have met in the Battle of Ontario with both teams being in a playoff position. Following a dramatic victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, the Leafs find themselves with a three point cushion over the Buffalo Sabres for first place in the North East division. Sitting second in the Eastern Conference standings, the Leafs are only three points behind the Penguins for first place with three games in hand. Things seem to be looking up for the buds.

On the ice, the Leafs have benefited greatly from the return of Tim Connolly and Tyler Bozak to the lineup. For the first time in a long time (maybe the first time ever in his Leafs tenure) Ron Wilson has a structured and properly formatted forward corps. Connolly provides established talent to play with first line talent in Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Mikhail Grabovski and co. are finally playing at the level people expect them to be at. While Tyler Bozak, David Steckel and their linemates are properly slotted in the third and fourth line. No forward at the moment is playing on a line that is not suited for them. With the return of Connolly the Leafs have played their two best games of the season. 

Jonas Gustavsson has been thrust into the limelight due to the James Reimer injury (Reimer is expected to back up The Monster tonight). Gustavsson struggled horribly as his season began, but the more he plays the better his game has been. Against the Penguins Gustavsson was the difference. Personally I still am not convinced in him, however if he keeps performing like he has I will happily admit I was wrong about him. 

After coming back from a 4-1 third period deficit to win 5-4 in a SO yesterday afternoon for their fifth straight win, the Senators held onto the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. Ottawa has been turning heads all season with their Jekyll and Hyde performances. Robin Lehner will get the nod against the Leafs today as the Senators attempt to avenge a 6-5 loss suffered early in October to Toronto. Ottawa will be without Captain Daniel Alfredsson as he recovers from a dirty elbow to the head thrown by Wojtek Wolski yesterday. 

Lineups 

Leafs

Forwards

Lupul - Connolly - Kessel

Kulemin - Grabovski - MacArthur

Lombardi - Bozak - Frattin

Dupuis - Steckel - Brown

Defense

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf

Liles - Komisarek

Gardiner - Schenn

Goalies

Gustavsson

Scrivens

Senators 

Forwards

Greening - Spezza - Michalek

Foligno - Da Costa - Butler

Daugavins - Smith - Neil

Winchester - Konopka - Condra

Defense

Cowen - Gonchar

Kuba - Karlsson 

Phillips - Runblad

Goalies 

Lehner

Anderson

Players to Watch 

Leafs: Nikolai Kulemin - The thirty goal scorer is getting his chances, and looking dangerous again. It's just a matter of time before he breaks out, and he always seems to have a great game in these Sunday affairs. 

Senators: Eric Karlsson - The Senators power play is on fire (29%) and it is led by the ever dangerous Sweede. Karlsson is off to a great start (12 pts in 11 games), and he'll be looking at punishing the Leafs penalty kill tonight. 

Game Time: 7:30 at the Scotiabank Place. TV - Sportsnet Ont. Radio - AM640.