Game #13 Preview - Jackets vs Leafs

For the second time in the last seven days the Toronto Maple Leafs will attempt to sweep both ends of a back to back. Unable to complete the sweep against the Senators on Sunday, the Leafs try again tonight against the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets (2-9-1). Columbus is currently 30th overall in the NHL with only five points. The Blue Jackets have been forced to deal with suspensions to key players (James Wisniewksi 8 games) and major injuries (both Jeff Carter and Kristian Huselius), to begin the year.

The fifth highest payroll team in the NHL has certainly fallen on hard times so far. With rumours swirling in regards to possible coaching and managerial changes, this Jackets team is on the precipice of disaster. Lost in the talk of suspensions, payroll, injuries and job security is the poor play of Steve Mason (3.11 GAA and a .889 save %). Mason, the 2009 Calder trophy winner has never been able to recapture the form from his rookie year. The fact that the Jackets invested so heavily into their team this season, and yet didn't protect themselves if Mason continued to struggle was terrible management. It's great to show faith in your players, but to let Mathieu Garon go and not replace him may be the biggest mistake GM Scott Howson made. 

Toronto needs to take advantage tonight and pounce on a wounded animal. The Leafs were unable to capitalize on both the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers earlier this season, so tonight's game is key. Can the Leafs show that killer instinct? Can they get a win on back to back nights on the road? Jonas Gustavsson will get his fifth straight start in net. James Reimer (again) is "expected" to back up tonight. 

Lineups

Leafs

Forwards

Lupul - Connolly - Kessel

Kulemin - Grabovski - MacArthur

Crabb - Bozak - Lombardi 

Brown - Steckel - Dupuis

Defense

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf

Liles - Komisarek

Gardiner - Schenn 

Goalies

Gustavsson

Reimer 

Blue Jackets

Forwards

Prospal - Mackenzie - Nash

Calvert - Vermette - Johansen 

Bass - Pahlsson - Umberger

Giroux - Brassard - Dorsett

Defense

Tyutin - Wisniewski 

Moore - Methot

Russel - Clitsome

Goalies

Mason

York 

Players to Watch 

Leafs: Matthew Lombardi - He skated really well last night, and seems to be finding his offense. Seeing how he performs on back to back nights is important. Condition will be key for Lombardi considering he missed all of last season with a concussion. 

Jackets: Rick Nash - The Brampton born player usually saves his best for his hometown team. A top five player in the NHL who doesn't receive the exposure he deserves. It will be a treat to see him play tonight. 

Game Time: 7:00 at Nationwide Arena. TV - Sportsnet Ontario. Radio - AM640.