Game Preview #55 - Flyers vs Leafs

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs (28-20-6) will look to bounce back tonight following their first regulation loss in six games as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers (30-16-7) in the city of brotherly love. Toronto is surprisingly sitting only five points behind Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference standings. While the talk all season has been about whether the Leafs can hold onto the 7th or 8th seed in the East, a win tonight and Toronto has a realistic shot at making a run at home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The Leafs are catching the Flyers at the perfect time. Philadelphia enters tonight losers of three straight games, and are only 4-3-3 in their past ten games. The Flyers have failed to defeat an Eastern Conference opponent since January 24th, and are enduring their worst stretch of the season. 

For the Leafs to succeed tonight they will need to pay attention in their own zone. In the only other meeting between these two clubs this season the Flyers exploited the Leafs lack of foot speed off the rush. If the Leafs' improved play in their own end continues tonight then they should leave the state of Pennsylvania with two points.

Philadelphia is once again having troubles with goaltending, so look for Toronto's top two lines to have success against either of Ilya Bryzgalov or Sergei Bobrovski. In addition to their poor play in the net, the Flyers lack footspeed on their blueline a weakness that the Leafs should definitely exploit. 

Toronto will start James Reimer who is coming off of three straight wins. This will be the first time this season that Reimer will face the Flyers as Jonas Gustavsson played - and lost - in the only other meeting this season. Toronto enters the game 3-6-2 in their last 11 road games, so hopefully they can turn that fortune around starting tonight. Top scorer Phil Kessel has scored three goals in his past three games and has seven points in total over that stretch. Other than Reimer for Gustavsson there are no expected lineup changes for the blue and white.

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

Flyers

Forwards

Hartnell - Giroux - Jagr
Schenn - Briere - Simmonds 
Read - Talbot - Voracek 
Rinaldo - Couterier - Sestito

Defense

Timmonen - Coburn 
Bourdon - Carle 
Gustafsson - Meszaros

Goalies

Bobrovski 
Bryzgalov

Players to Watch

Leafs: Dion Phaneuf - The last two games have been the Leafs captain worst of the season. His ability to log heavy minutes and provide offense have been key for the Leafs all season. If Toronto is to make a statement tonight in the Eastern Conference their captain needs to lead the charge. 

Flyers: Jaromir Jagr - The Czech legend was a one man show the last time these two teams met. His blend of speed and skill has dropped off slightly, but he is still one of the most dangerous men in the league on the right night. Toronto will have the Gunnarsson - Phaneuf pairing up against the Jagr line as much as possible tonight. 

Game Time: 7:00 at the Wells Fargo Centre. TV - TSN. Radio - AM640.