The Leafs return to the Air Canada Centre tonight for the annual Hall of Fame Game. There will be a 25 minute yawn-fest before the game in which Jim Devellano, Angela James, Cammi Granato, Dino Cicarelli, and the late Daryl “Doc” Seamen will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame to join the great names that came before them.
Coming off a four game losing streak, the boys in blue will try to snap back into their early season form. The Leafs have not won since they beat the Panthers almost two weeks ago, yet they have had some close calls. The closest came on Wednesday night against the Washington Capitals. After a back and forth 60 minutes that looked like it played to the Capitals high flying system more than the rough and tumble Burke/Wilson model, the Leafs survived a 4-on-3 penalty kill in overtime (Tim Brent’s shin pads did not). They eventually lost in the shootout on an unstoppably rude 14 foot slapshot from Alex Semin to the top corner, but squeezing a point out of a high scoring game against last years Presidents Trophy winners makes the loss easier to swallow.
Tonight the Leafs will try to get two points and deny their division rivals two at the same time. In the past, the Sabres have had their way with the Maple Leafs. In the last 11 meetings before tonight the Leafs are 1-8-2, however, these are not the Maple Leafs of years past. Now that the Buds are playing with confidence and swagger they once lacked, every matchup must be looked at with a fresh set of eyes. Add in the fact that Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller will be out for the third game straight with a lower body injury and that ugly record starts to fade from view a little more. Since Patrick Lalime played last night against the Habs, expect Jhonas Enroth to get the nod tonight.
After being demoted to the third line against the Caps on wednesday, Tyler Bozak scored a goal and as a result will rejoin Phil the Thrill and Versteeg on the first line for this evenings matchup. With our phearless leader out for another 4-6 weeks with a near-castration, Burke recalled 6’3″ German defenseman Korbinian Holzer to line up on the third pairing with Brett Lebda. Jean Sebastian Giguere will start for the Leafs, bringing a 3-1-1 record against the Sabres along with him.
Per Ken Beckett of Hockeybuzz, the Maple Leafs lines should look something like this tonight:
Kris Versteeg – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur – Mikhail Grabovski – Nikolai Kulemin
Fredrik Sjostrom – John Mitchell – Mike Brown
Luca Caputi – Tim Brent – Colton Orr
Francois Beauchemin – Mike Komisarek
Tomas Kaberle – Luke Schenn
Brett Lebda – Korbinian Holzer