With their last win coming exactly three weeks ago, and two days off since their stinging loss at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, the Leafs will host the similarly struggling Nashville Predators at the ACC tonight. According to all indicators, the Leafs will keep the top two lines that played on Saturday together. Mikhail Grabovski, with three goals in his last four games, will center the Leafs’ two point leaders, with Clarke MacArthur and Phil Kessel flanking him on the wings. Tyler Bozak will center Kulemin and Kadri on the 2nd line. As far as the checking lines go, Tim Brent is expected to center Versteeg and Sjostrom, while Mitchell will skate between Brown and Orr.
I know I’ve brought this up a few times in passing, but it really makes absolutely no sense to me why John Mitchell gets to see playing time. There really isn’t anything he actually brings to the table, while Christian Hanson would certainly bring more of an edge to the fourth line, or Mike Zigomanis would bring his incredible faceoff skill to any number of situations, including the much-maligned penalty kill that Mitchell has been somehow made a part of. I understand he’s got a one way contract and could be claimed off waivers, but there’s no reason to expect that anyone would want him, and frankly I don’t think we’d miss him that much.
The Preds have been doing a bit of their own losing the last few weeks, dropping five of their last seven games after opening the year as the last team to lose in regulation. They did win their last two games in overtime, though, stopping the Blues and Blackhawks in the tiebreaker last week.
The Leafs had better hope they can get some spark back in both their penalty killing and powerplay units, and they’ll need to be back at top speed if they’re going to be able to compete tonight.