Game Preview #32 - Leafs vs Canucks

 

On the heels of yesterday's tough loss to the rival Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs (16-12-3) head home to take on the Vancouver Canucks (18-11-2) in a must win game for the blue and white. The Canucks come into the game with the top ranked power play unit, and they will look to expose the bottom ranked Leaf PK. Toronto will need to demonstrate a level of discipline that has been missing from their game for the last two weeks. The buds' poor results of late have coincided with a rash of lazy plays and un-necessary penalties.

The Canucks and Leafs have developed a little hatred for each other over the last few years, mostly in the management field. Both Leafs GM Brian Burke and David Nonis were the architects of the current incarnation of the Canucks squad. Three seasons ago the Leafs were penalized for tampering when Ron Wilson mentioned the Sedin twins as potential free agent targets. The fact that former Leaf captain Mats Sundin finished his career in Vancouver was also a factor, in addition Burke was consulted by the NHL during the finals last season when Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome was suspended. It has all led to some animosity between two teams that only face each other twice a season. Toronto has not fared well since the lockout with the Canucks going 8-0-0 in this games. Although the Leafs may be facing the Canucks at the right time considering they are coming off back to back losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Carolina Hurricanes, two of the bottom teams in the NHL.

With the Leafs having played last night they are definitely going to need to muster up some effort against a fast skating Vancouver team. A benefit from yesterday's game however may be the fact that with the Leafs on the penalty kill for so much of the game there stars didn't play as much as they usually do perhaps leaving them fresher for tonight's contest. Consider also that captain Dion Phaneuf was ejected from last night's game in the second period leaving him with plenty of gas in the tank. Jonas Gustavsson will step into the net for the first time since the Rangers game 11 days ago. Gustavsson really emerged for the Leafs during Reimer's absence and the Leafs will need him to be sharp against an explosive Canucks team.

Lineups

Leafs

Forwards

Lupul - Bozak - Kessel
Kulemin - Grabovski - Frattin
Armstrong - Connolly - MacArthur
Dupuis - Steckel - Crabb

Defense

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Gardiner - Schenn
Franson - Liles

Goalies

Gustavsson
Reimer

Canucks

Forwards

Sedin - Sedin - Burrows
Higgins - Kesler - Hansen
Raymond - Hodgson - Weise
Rome - Malholtra - Lapierre

Defense

Hamhuis - Bieska
Edler - Salo
Ballard - Alberts

Goalies

Luongo
Schneider

Players to Watch

Leafs: Nikolai Kulemin - The Russian winger broke out of his 23 game goalless slump last night against the Sabres. With tonight's game looking to be a high scoring game the Leafs will need the former 30 goal scorer to get on a nice run now that the monkey is off his back. He's looked great his last four games.

Canucks: Henrik Sedin - The Canucks captain is the playmaking part of the dynamic twinship. His skill set is one that the Leafs traditionally have problems with. To beat the kill the snake you need to cut its head off and "Hank" is that head. Look for Phaneuf to enforce his will on the Sedins physically all game.

Game Time: 7:00 at the Air Canada Centre. TV - CBC. Radio - AM640.