Game Preview #64 - Blackhawks vs Leafs

 

1-8-1 in their last 10 games. The Toronto Maple Leafs (29-27-7) will once again attempt to bust out of the slide that has caused them to have that awful record in their past ten games. Their opponent tonight will be the up and down Chicago Blackhawks (33-24-7). Chicago enters tonight's game having lost three straight games. Before this recent slide the 'Hawks won four straight, and prior to that streak they lost nine straight. Needless to say this Chicago team has been having a Jeckyl and Hyde second half to the season.

Captain Jonathan Toews is currently out of the lineup with a suspected concussion and his absence has been a big reason for his teams up and down play. Goaltending has also been a major reason why the Hawks have been struggling of late as they face the same situation as the Leafs do. Both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have provided inadequate goaltending, and are a major question mark heading into the post-season. These reeling goalies present the Leafs' dormant offense a prime opportunity to revive themselves tonight. Let's see if they can take advantage. 

Jonas Gustavsson will be back in between the pipes for the first time since he completely self destructed against the New Jersey Devils last week. The Monster has actually been pretty resilient all season, and just when you think he's done he's been able to grab another lifeline. If Jonas can come through tonight maybe he can put this team on his back for the final 19 games. I doubt it, but stranger things have happened (Paul Gaustad for a 1st) 

I don't know about any other lineup changes, but some changes are necessary following last night's humiliating loss to the Florida Panthers. The biggest question will be whether any player in blue and white will grab this team and drag them out of this slide. Of late Dion Phaneuf has demonstrated that he is not capable of leading them anywhere, other than Phil Kessel and Jake Gardiner can somebody else provide a boost to this sagging squad?

Lineups

Leafs

Forwards

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

Defense

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf 
Gardiner - Schenn 
Liles - Komisarek

Goalies

Gustavsson
Reimer

Blackhawks

Forwards

Sharp - Kruger - Stalberg 
Brunette - Kane - Hossa 
Bickell - Bolland - Shaw
Bollig - Mayers - Hayes

Defense

Keith - O'Donnell
Oduya - Seabrook 
Olsen - Leddy

Goalies

Crawford 
Niemi

Players to Watch

Leafs: Joffrey Lupul - Has been battling through a sore wrist and sore ankle. Had a goal an assist last night as well as a goal called off. Can Lupul elevate his game and provide some assistance to running mate Kessel tonight?

HawksMarian Hossa - One of the most underrated players in the leauge. An absolute beast and two-way star. Has a history of success against the blue and white from his Ottawa days. Presents the blend of skill, speed and size that can exploit the terrible Leafs' defense.

Game Time: 8:00 at The United Centre. TV - TSN. Radio -AM640.