Game Preview #60 - Leafs vs Devils
The turtle derby continues tonight as the Toronto Maple Leafs (29-24-6) will host the New Jersey Devils (34-20-4) at the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs enter tonight's contest in a tie for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with the Winnipeg Jets. Although both teams are sitting at 64 points, the Leafs are ahead on winning percentage having played two less games than the Jets. While Toronto has been sputtering terribly lately going 1-5-0 in their past six games, they still sit miraculously in a playoff position thanks to the inability of the Washington Capitals to overtake them.
Much like Saturday's contest against the Vancouver Canucks, the Leafs will face a red-hot opponent tonight in the Devils. New Jersey is currently in the midst of a 8-1-1 stretch and have been getting some fantastic results from Ilya Kovalchuk (5 goals and 12 assists in the last 9 games) and Martin Brodeur (6-1-0 1.56 GAA and a .945 save percentage in February). The Devils have used this run to vault themselves into 4th in East and have emerged as a legitimate contender in a season that many expected them to miss the playoffs.
Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson will return to the lineup for the Leafs tonight as he missed the three game western Canadian road trip with a sore ankle. Without Gunnarsson in the lineup the Leafs surrendered 14 goals in that three game trip. The young Sweede has become a key member of the Toronto blueline and his return is a welcome sight for the struggling Leafs. Jonas Gustavsson will start in goal for the blue and white tonight and the Leafs will need a big effort from The Monster.
Toronto will need to be careful on the power play tonight as not only are the Devils the second best penalty killing team in the league, but they lead the league with 13 shorthanded goals scored.
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel
Kulemin - Grabovski - MacArthur
Crabb - Connolly - Lombardi
Brown - Steckel - Boyce
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Gardiner - Schenn
Liles - Franson
Parise - Henrique - Kovalchuk
Sykora - Elias - Clarkson
Ponikarovski - Zubrus - Bernier
Bolton - Josefson - Palmieri
Greene - Fayne
Volchenkov - Salvador
Harrold - Taormina
Players to Watch
Leafs: Mikhail Grabovski - The pending UFA has gone cold of late as the Leafs have begun to struggle. Whether the trade rumours have effected his play or not, the Leafs need Grabo to provide some help to Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul against a difficult opponent tonight.
Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk - Probably the hottest player in the league at the moment will look to exploit the weak Leafs' D. If the Leafs provide Kovalchuk the same chances that they have their opponents of late then tonight's game can get out of hand quickly.
Game Time: 7:00 at the Air Canada Centre. TV - Sportsnet Ontario. Radio - AM640.