Game Preview #44 - Leafs vs Senators

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs (22-17-5) enter tonight's game against the Ottawa Senators (25-16-6) off of two straight losses that have caused them to slip out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference. Due to this fact the Leafs will make some changes to their lineup. Goalie James Reimer will start his first game of 2012, as his previous start was on New Years Eve. Centre Tyler Bozak will also return to the lineup having missed the last nine games with a shoulder injury. Bozak will re-unite with winger Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul who are mired in a season high three game pointless streak. In addition to these changes both rookie Jake Gardiner and tough guy Jay Rosehill will be inserted into the squad at the expense of Luke Schenn and Nazem Kadri. 

The Senators are riding high as they are the hottest team in the NHL at the moment going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Tonight's game will be the first for the Senators of a six game road streak. Ottawa is an opportunistic, high risk offensive team. Their skill set and game style matches up perfectly with the Leafs' high speed game, so look for tonight's game to be a track meet.

The Senators are the surprise team in the league this season, and are capitalizing on the play of the youth in Erik Karlsson (44 pts) and Nick Foligno (12 goals) and the old dogs in Jason Spezza (47 pts) and Daniel Alfredsson (33 pts). 

With the Senators becoming a legitimate playoff threat in the Eastern Conference the Leafs will need to come up with a big effort at home if they are going to continue making a playoff push. A win in regulation is key as this game is a proverbial four point game. 

Lineups

Leafs

Forwards

Lupul - Bozak - Kessel 
Kulemin - Grabovski - MacArthur 
Crabb - Connolly - Lombardi 
Rosehill - Steckel - Brown

Defense

Aulie - Phaneuf 
Gunnarsson - Franson 
Gardiner - Komisarek

Goalies

Reimer 
Gustavsson

Senators

Forwards 

Greening - Spezza - Michalek 
Condra - Turris - Alfredsson 
Foligno - Smith - Neil 
Daugavans - Konopka - Butler

Defense  

Kuba - Karlsson 
Cowen - Gonchar 
Phillips - Carkner

Goalies

Anderson 
Auld

Players to Watch

Leafs: Clarke MacArthur - He will be reunited with Grabovksi and Kulemin on a line that was magic last season. MacArthur needs to step up his game and provide the Leafs with some secondary scoring for them to succeed in what is expected to be a high scoring affair tonight. 

Senators: Kyle Turris - The Senators hot streak has coincided with his arrival to the team. Turris has 9 points in 14 games with Ottawa while being a more than respectable +10 during that stretch. The Leafs can't forget about Turris while they focus on Spezza. 

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