Game #15 Preview - Leafs vs Panthers
Coming off of a humiliating 7-0 loss on home ice Saturday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs (9-4-1) will look to bounce back as they host the Florida Panthers (6-4-3) tonight. The Panthers have surprised many teams this season with their play. Led by first year coach Kevin Dineen, the Panthers have become a trapping team who thrive on the counter attack. Former Leaf Kris (I love my mouthguard) Versteeg currently leads the Panthers with 13 points in 13 games. Super prospect Jakob Markstrom was returned to the AHL yesterday, so look for one of Jose Theodore or Scott Clemmensen to get the start tonight.
The Leafs have successfully responded with a victory following their other three losses this season. The vultures have begun to circle above the Leafs after Saturday's loss, making tonight's game very important. If the Leafs defense doesn't have a solid game look for the media to roast the blue and white tomorrow. Jonas Gustavsson will get the start in net. While rookie winger Matt Frattin returns to the lineup having been recalled from the Toronto Marlies today. Frattin's presence is necessary after it was announced that first line centre Tim Connolly will miss the next 10-14 days with an upper body injury. Connolly joins notable Leafs Colby Armstrong (knee sprain) and James Reimer (whiplash/concussion) in the infirmary. Luke Schenn is expected back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch versus the Bruins Saturday.
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel
Kulemin - Grabovski - MacArthur
Frattin - Lombardi - Crabb
Brown - Steckel - Dupuis
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Liles - Komisarek
Gardiner - Schenn
Players to Watch
Leafs: Phil Kessel - The league leader in points has scored only one goal in his last six games. All the skeptics are waiting for the Leafs to crash back to earth after the loss to Boston. Kessel needs to prove that he has matured and help lead this young team tonight. It will be tough with Bozak as his centre, but Phil has proven he can do things alone before. On a side note, Kessel has had some great games for the Leafs against Florida in his brief time in TO.
Panthers: Dmitri Kulikov - An underrated budding young star. Kulikov has all the tools needed to have an impact in the near future. His passing ability could hurt the vulnerable Leafs defense tonight.
Game Time: 7:00 at the Air Canada Centre. TV - Sportsnet Ontario. Radio - AM640.