Game Preview #35 - Islanders vs Leafs

 

Following a massive victory last night at home against the Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs (17-13-4) are back on the road to face off against the New York Islanders (11-15-6) in their final game before Christmas. This will mark the third time this season the Leafs will play the second half of a back to back, on the road, following a big home victory. The first time came after the Leafs defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, only to lose the following night in Ottawa. The second time Toronto came into Carolina off of a massive 7-1 against the Washington Capitals, and were defeated by the Hurricanes. Hopefully the young buds have learnt their lesson and can dispose of a weaker opponent in the Islanders tonight. 

New York is heading into this game in the midst of a once again struggling season. Currently the boys from the Isle are sitting in 14th spot in the Eastern Conference, and are coming off of a loss last night against the rival Rangers. Toronto native John Tavares is not having as great of a season as people expected sitting with a very respectful (but still disappointing) 27 points in 32 games. Evgeny Nabokov is expected to get the start tonight in goal tonight. Nabokov is 2-6-0 on the season with a 2.69 GAA and a .914 save percentage. 

The Leafs are expected to dress the same lineup that defeated the Sabres from the night before. James Reimer will most likely be back in net tonight as the Leafs look to head into the holidays on a high. Considering this is the back end of a back to back situation coach Ron Wilson will most likely lean on all four lines equally tonight. Toronto will need to avoid taking penalties tonight as that may be the only thing that stands between them and two points tonight. 

Lineups

Leafs

Forwards

Lupul - Bozak - Kessel 
Kadri - Connolly - MacArthur 
Frattin - Grabovski - Kulemin 
Crabb - Steckel - Boyce

Defense

Aulie - Phaneuf 
Gunnarsson - Schenn
Liles - Franson

Goalies

Reimer 
Gustavsson

Islanders

Forwards

Moulson - Tavares - Parenteau  
Grabner - Nielson - Okposo 
Martin - Bailey Niederreiter 
Haley - Reasoner - Wallace

Defense

Streit - Jurcina 
Harmonic - MacDonald 
Mottau - Eaton

Goalies

Nabokov
Nilsson

Players to Watch

Leafs: Nazem Kadri - The Leafs' top prospect continues in his attempt to make his mark on this team. Having scored the game winner last night, hopefully Kadri can build on that performance against a weak Islanders blueline. 

Islanders: Nino Niedereitter - The former top five pick in the draft (5th overall in 2010) is a significant prospect playing in the shadows on Long Island. 'El Nino' is both skilled and strong with an ability to drive opponents crazy. At the 2010 World Junior Championship Kadri made a throat slashing gesture towards Niederreiter. It'll be interesting to see these two play tonight. 

Game Time 7:00 at the Nassau Veterans Colliseum. TV - TSN. Radio - AM640.