From New Jersey With Love

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When the Devils beat the Leafs last Friday night, they got a general feel for their opponent. The Devils left that game last Friday night with the win and the confidence that they could beat the very same team again four nights later in Toronto. Well by the time that game rolled around, the Devils were staring into a completely different opponent. They had to go into Toronto and take on a Leafs team that all of the sudden had Dion Phaneuf on the blue line and JS Giguere between the pipes. It was obvious that the Devils were not prepared as the Leafs handled them quite easily for Giguere's first win and first shutout in a Leafs jersey.

This time the Leafs left the game with a general feel for their opponent and the confidence that they could beat the very same team (albeit Brodeur would most likely return in goal) three nights later in New Jersey. Well this time Lou Lamoriello returned the favour when he traded for Ilya Kovalchuk last night. The Leafs will get the first look at the Devils with Kovalchuk injected into the lineup this evening. You can bet that the Devils, now headed by Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise will be looking to exact revenge for Tuesday night's embarrassment, and boy oh boy do they have the tools to do just that.

In just two meetings so far between the Leafs and the Thrashers, Kovalchuk recorded 2 goals and 2 assists, for a total of 4 points. Kovalchuk has been a Leaf killer, but he's not the only one in New Jersey. Zach Parise has been a Leaf killer as well and he too has recorded 2 goals and 2 assists against the Leafs in just two meetings this season.

On the flip side of things, the Leafs have been trouble for New Jersey's main star, Martin Brodeur. In fact, Brodeur's career record against the Leafs is just 18-15-10. That's a far fall from grace when you look at Brodeur's overall career numbers.

But tonight is not about history, it's about now. Phaneuf just the other day boldly claimed that this season is not over yet for the Leafs. I expect another big game for Phaneuf whose presence was definitely felt on Tuesday night.

Gustavsson will be between the pipes for the Leafs tonight and Giguere will play tomorrow night at home against the red hot Senators.
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Back to Phaneuf just for a second. Mike Zeisberger has an article up for The Toronto Sun, which you can read here. The article features brief words from Olli Jokinen, who was traded from the Calgary Flames this week to the New York Rangers. Jokinen states that Phaneuf was a good teammate and put to rest the rumours that Phaneuf was a problem in the dressing room. Jokinen goes as far as to suggest that the fans are ultimately the ones that pushed Phaneuf out of town. I'm not sure I agree with that, but it is good to hear that former teammates of his have nothing but good things to say.

The Leafs will have their hands full tonight, that's for sure.

Enjoy the game!