Game #4 Preview - Leafs vs Avalanche

The only thing standing in the way of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a repeat of their 4-0 start from last season are they high flying Colorado Avalanche. Many experts predicted the Av’s to be a lottery pick team this season, and they were considered a laughing stock over the summer for trading their first round pick to the Washington Capitals for goaltender Semyon Varlamov. These two things could turn out to be true, The Avalanche could end up being a bottom five team in the NHL and the Varlamov trade could become a haunting transaction. At the moment though, the trade looks great. Colorado is off to a 4-1 start having 15 goals in their first five games, and with Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog are one of the most entertaining teams to watch. Although the Avalanche have scored the second most goals in the league so far, the Leafs actually lead the NHL in goals per game with 3.67. How great is that reactionary fans? Take that Buffalo! 

 
This evening’s game should be a track meet. Both the Leafs and the Avalanche are fast skating, puck pursuit teams that thrive on the counter attack. It is crucial that the Leafs don’t fall into the trap the Montreal Canadiens did on Saturday and make this game a high scoring shootout. Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson, Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek should physically punish the smaller Avalanche forwards, and contain them to the outside if the Leafs are to be successful tonight. Toronto will need the Grabovski line, Schenn and the power play to snap out of their early season funk quickly. 
 
John Michael Liles and Jean Sebastian Giguere are not only similar in that they have three names, but also in the sense that they will both be facing off against their former teams tonight. Hopefully the Leafs will expose Giguere tonight as many teams did when he was a member of the blue and white. Note to Leaf shooters: Giguere can’t move side to side! Liles has been decent so far in the three games this season, but needs to bring more to the table. 
 
Lineups 
 
Leafs 
 
Forwards 
 
Kulemin – Grabovski – MacArthur
Lupul – Bozak – Kessel
Frattin – Lombardi – Armstrong 
Steckel – Dupuis – Brown 
 
Defense 
 
Gunnarsson – Phaneuf 
Liles – Komisarek
Franson – Schenn
 
Goalies 
 
Reimer 
Gustavsson 
 
Avalanche 
 
Forwards 
 
Lindstrom – Duchene – Hejduk
Jones – Stastny – Kobasew 
Landeskog – O’Reilly – Winnik
McLeod  - McClement – Porter 
 
Defense 
 
Hejda – Johnson 
Quincey  - O’Brien
Wilson – O’Byrne 
 
Goalies 
 
Giguere 
Varlamov 
 
Players to Watch 
 
Leafs: John Michael Liles – Sorry to be repetitive, but as stated above the Leafs have won games this season in spite of the power play. The former Av’s defender was brought in to improve that area for the Leafs, and in a game that could be high scoring the Leafs need the power play to be on form tonight.  
 
Avalanche: Matt Duchene – Thanks to Martin Gerber the Leafs won too many games to end the 2008-2009 season, wasting the opportunity to draft this budding superstar from Haliburton Ontario. A fast, instinctive scorer and play maker he is the complete package. 
 
Game Time: 7:00 at the Air Canada Centre. TV – Sportsnet Ontario. Radio – AM640