Game Preview #33 - Leafs vs Kings

 

Should the Toronto Maple Leafs (16-13-3) lose tonight at home against the Los Angelas Kings (14-14-4), they run the risk of dropping out of the playoffs for the first time this season. Having produced a wonderful start to the season, the buds have found themselves in a dogfight in the tightly packed Eastern Conference. 

The Leafs may be catching a break though as the Kings will unveil Darryl Sutter tonight as their new coach. Sutter will try to get the Kings back on track following their terrible 8-2 loss Saturday night in Detroit. The Kings are sputtering at the moment, and although I am a fan of Sutter's coaching hopefully his team remains in limbo for one more night. Mike Richards will once again be out of the lineup as he recovers from a concussion. Toronto must get a lot of traffic to the net as they will face one of the leagues most underrated players in Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick has had a great start to the year posting a 2.20 GAA and a strong .927 save percentage. 

While the Kings' power play has been poor this season (22nd overall) a unit that can throw out all-stars Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown is one that the Leafs cannot provide opportunities to. 

The Leafs have announced that James Reimer will be back in net following Jonas Gustavsson's start on Saturday night. Reimer will need to shake the rust off and begin to carry this team if they are going to continue to remain afloat in the East. Tim Connolly will return to the top line between Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel as Tyler Bozak slips down to the third line. Look for the Leafs to dress seven defenseman for the second straight game as David Steckel remains out with a virus. Make no doubt about it, tonight's game is a crucial one to the blue and white, and it seems Ron Wilson is putting his best lineup out there to get the job done. 

Lineups 

Leafs

Forwards 

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

Defense

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf 
Gardiner - Schenn
Liles - Franson 
Aulie

Goalies

Reimer 
Gustavsson 

Kings 

Forwards 

Gagne - Kopitar - Brown 
Penner - Stoll - Williams 
Richardson - Lewis - Hunter 
Clifford - Fraser - Westgarth

Defense

Scuderi - Doughty 
Johnson - Mitchell 
Drewiske - Greene

Goalies

Quick
Bernier

Players to Watch

Leafs: Luke Schenn - The struggling Leafs defenseman has really cost the buds the last couple of games. He will have his hands full with the physical Kings in front of Reimer tonight. Schenn needs to simplify his game in order to succeed. Look for a bounce back performance tonight. 

Kings: Dustin Brown - One of my favourite players in the NHL, Brown can do it all. He's a former 30 goal scorer who's led the league in hits on multiple occasions in his career. Although he hasn't had a great season so far, Brown is the type of player that should prosper under Sutter's guidance. 

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