Game Preview #40 - Leafs vs Jets

 

For the second time in less than a week the Toronto Maple Leafs (19-15-5) and the Winnipeg Jets (19-15-5) will square off in a crucial Eastern Conference showdown.  On the final day of 2011, the Jets defeated Toronto 3-2 thanks in large part to their power play (and the referee's). Although the Leafs dominated the game and outscored the Jets 2-1 at even strength, Winnipeg capitalized on two of their six power plays as they squeaked out a one goal victory. Most people reading this though I'm sure must have watched that frustrating game, so it's pointless for me to point out the two phantom penalty calls to both Cody Franson and Joey Crabb that led to goals. I'm sure they also remember the lack of penalties given on clear slashes and tackles to Leafs players, or the imaginary hand pass that stopped play as the Leafs crashed the crease in the final minute of the game. 

Tonight's game between these two Canadian teams is significant in the sense that they are both currently tied in points just outside the playoff bubble in the East. With a win tonight these teams possibly jump from 10th to 6th in the conference. Toronto will once again turn to Jonas Gustavsson following his victory against the Lightning on Tuesday. The Monster has a team leading 10 wins on the season and has slowly emerged as the better option for the blue and white as of late. The Leafs will look to capitalize on a tired Jets team that played (and lost 7-3) last night in Montreal. Ondrei Pavelec will most likely start again for Winnipeg as his third period performance on Saturday denied the Leafs a chance to earn a result on New Years Eve. The Jets defense was unable to contain the Canadiens forwards last night, and as the Leafs have a deadlier and faster forward corps look for them to attack at will tonight. The last time Toronto played a conference rival less than a week after a controversial loss they avenged themselves with a victory on home ice. Look for the Leafs to repeat what they did against Buffalo with a hard fought game tonight against the Jets. 

Lineups

Leafs

Forwards

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

Defense

Aulie - Phaneuf
Gunnarsson - Schenn
Franson - Gardiner

Goalies

Gustavsson
Reimer

Jets

Forwards

Ladd - Antropov - Wellwood
Kane - Stapleton - Wheeler 
Glass - Slater - Miettinen
Fehr - Burmistrov - Thorburn

Defense

Hainsey - Enstrom 
Oduya - Bogosian 
Jones - Stuart

Goalies

Pavelec 
Mason  

Leafs: Tim Connolly - With the Jets having an obvious hole down the middle, it will be up to the former Sabre to lead the charge tonight. Connolly is coming off of a two point effort against Tampa and has the luxury of playing with two of the hottest wingers in the league in Kessel and Lupul.

Jets: Tobias Enstrom - The pint sized defenseman is an underrated puck mover and power play quarterback. He has exploited the Leafs weak penalty kill throughout his career. If the Leafs are going to stop the Jets it begins with Enstrom. 

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