The Leafs are coming off their longest break between games since January 2012, when they had a full week off between games against the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Leafs lost both of those games; the Isles game in overtime and the Penguins game in a shootout. That was a long time ago and the roster is completely different now, but obviously the Leafs will be hoping for a better fate tonight as they take on the New Jersey Devils after a six-day break.
Last time around, the Vancouver Canucks soundly beat the Leafs 4-0 on Saturday night. The Leafs were outshot 47-21 and completely outclassed by a superior Canucks team. They’ve had a full week of practice to try and iron out their issues, so they should be fully motivated to put that ugly loss behind them with a strong effort against the Devils.
The Leafs didn’t only lose the game on Saturday, they also lost a key player in centre Dave Bolland. Bolland is likely to be out for at least a couple of months after suffering a lacerated ankle after a freak collision with Zack Kassian of the Canucks. That means the Leafs will try James van Riemsdyk in the first-line centre spot between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. JvR has never played centre in his NHL career, but did play the position in college.
The Devils are struggling to score goals this season after losing Ilya Kovalchuk to the KHL in the summer. The Devils sit 25th in the league with a goals-for percentage of 38.7, but there is reason for optimism for Devils fans as they are 10th in corsi-for percentage with a 52 mark. They’ll need the likes of Steve Bernier (two points), Andrei Loktionov (three), Dainius Zubrus (three) and Travis Zajac (four) to break out of their slumps soon to improve on their mediocre won-loss record. Cory Schneider will get the start in goal for the Devils tonight.
Jonathan Bernier will get the start for the Leafs, with James Reimer likely to get the nod tomorrow night against the Boston Bruins. Nineteen-year-old defenseman Morgan Rielly will sit out to make room for Mark Fraser, who is returning from injury after 13 games on the shelf. Paul Ranger will likely be Fraser’s defense partner tonight. For full lineup information and other notes, check out our preview.
Comment below to take part in our game thread. What are your predictions for the game tonight? I’ll start: The Leafs win 4-1 thanks to two goals by Kessel and David Clarkson scoring his first goal of the season against his former team.
GO LEAFS GO!