Game Preview #53 - Leafs vs Oilers

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs (27-19-6) will host the Edmonton Oilers (21-26-5) tonight at the Air Canada Centre in what has all the characteristics of classic let down game. The Leafs are currently riding high going 4-0-1 in their last five games with their last wing being a massive 5-0  moral boosting victory over their provincial rival Ottawa Senators. With the next three games following tonight against Eastern Conference foes it is imperative that the Leafs do not look past the young Oilers tonight.

Edmonton is currently sitting in 13th spot in the ultra competitive Western Conference, and are playing their best hockey of the season having won their last two games against the Chicago Black Hawks and Detroit Red Wings respectively. The Oilers have been the talk of the league since Thursday night as centre Sam Gagner has recorded 6 goals and 5 assists in those two victories. Gagner's run is one of the most improbable and unexpected in recent memory. The Leafs cannot be too focused on Gagner though as the true threat of the Oilers lies with Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. Thanks to some tough years the Oilers have stockpiled some of the most dangerous and prolific young offensive weapons that this league has. While the offense is in good hands with Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Gagner as well as Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth the Oilers are still a horror show in their own zone. Edmonton is expected to start Devan Dubnyk for the sixth straight game tonight. 

The Leafs will dress the same lineup that has seen them win their last two games. That means that James Reimer will make his third consecutive start following back to back shutouts. At the moment Reimer has stopped all 74 shots he has faced in those two contests, and has demonstrated an ability to play a calm and quiet game in between the pipes. Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski enters tonight on a five game points streak (10 points during that stretch). Toronto should have plenty of motivation tonight as most of these players can remember the Oilers shutting the Leafs out 5-0 at the Air Canada Centre last season. Look for the speedy Leafs to cause plenty of headaches for the weak Oilers defense. It should be another entertaining affair between the two fastest skating teams in the league. 

Lineups

Leafs

Forwards

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

Defense

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf 
Gardiner - Schenn 
Liles - Franson

Goalies

Reimer
Gustavsson

Oilers

Forwards

Hall - Gagner - Eberle 
Horcoff - Nugent-Hopkins - Hemsky 
Smyth - Belanger - Jones 
Eager - Lander - Petrell

Defense

Whitney - Potter 
Smid - Petry 
Barker - Gilbert

Goalies

Dubnyk 
Khabibulin

Players to Watch

Leafs: Joffrey Lupul - The Alberta born Lupul has scored only one goal in his last eleven games, but has looked sharp through that entire stretch. Look for the Leafs leading scorer (tied with Kessel) to have a big night against his former team. 

Oilers: Taylor Hall - The best young Canadian forward in the league not named Sidney Crosby or John Tavares. Hall is the type of player that people love to watch, he's fearless and has unbelievable skill. Really looking forward to seeing him play tonight. 

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