Who: Toronto Maple Leafs (11-6-0) at Minnesota Wild (10-4-4)
Where: Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul, MN)
When: 7:30 PM ET
Where to watch: TSN; Fox Sports North; Fox Sports Wisconsin
Where to listen: Sportsnet 590 The Fan
Enemy blog: Gone Puck Wild
Toronto’s rough patch in their season continues into the wilderness as the Leafs will look to rebound after the loss to the Boston Bruins Saturday night.
The Leafs and Wild are both, largely, surprise teams this season as not many expected the Wild to be 10-4-4 after 18 games or Toronto to win six of their first seven games.
Minnesota is on a tear of late behind Josh Harding’s outstanding play, earning 16 points in their last 10 games, while the Leafs are just 5-5-0 in their last 10.
Starting In Goal
The Blue and White will again look to dodge a bullet with Nicklas Backstrom getting the start, avoiding the absolutely red-hot Josh Harding again, who has quickly become the most impressive and inspiring story in the NHL. Backstrom, on the other hand, has looked like a goaltender who has had one too many abdominal injuries with an unappealing .871 save percentage through four games this season.
At the other end, it appears Jonathan Bernier will get the nod in goal for the Buds. He is 7-4-0 on the year with a 2.17 goals against average and a .936 save percentage.
Phil Kessel has been playing like the $8-million man that he recently became, scoring three goals in the last five games, including a game-winner in Edmonton. Bernier and Reimer have combined for the league’s third-best save percentage, so it typically doesn’t matter who starts for Toronto, but they are playing the busier of the two and probably the oh-so-slightly better half of the duo.
Wild captain Jason Pominville has been leading by example with seven goals in his last seven games. Rookie Justin Fontaine has also come through in big ways for Minnesota this year and has five goals in his past nine games.
Dave Bolland and Tyler Bozak remain on injured reserve for the visitors, while Keith Ballard is on IR for the hosts. Clayton Stoner is also day-to-day and Mike Rupp has been assigned to Iowa in the AHL for a conditioning assignment.
Keys To Victory
Toronto needs to play the typical road game in St. Paul with tight checking and opportunistic offense, a taste of the Wild’s own medicine from recent years.
Expect David Clarkson to see an improved role both on the power play as well as 5-on-5.
As Reimer did in the two teams’ previous meeting, Bernier will need to make more than a few big saves. The Wild dominated the game in Toronto and that was with most of the Leafs’ starting lineup. Bolland and Bozak leave huge holes in the faceoff department, which could lead to a lot of lost own-zone faceoffs and even more offensive-end pressure from the home side.