The Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs meet for the third time this season tonight. The Panthers won the first game back on December 17 by a score of 3-1, while the Leafs countered with a big 6-3 victory in Toronto on Thursday.
The Leafs’ offense exploded in that game with goals by Cody Franson, Mason Raymond, James van Riemsdyk, Nikolai Kulemin, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak. Then on Saturday, the Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators by the same 6-3 score thanks to a Phil Kessel hat trick, and goals by Lupul, Bozak and Nazem Kadri.
The offense has come alive during this January streak. The Leafs scored at least four goals in seven of their last 10 games, going 8-1-1. Kessel has led the way during the stretch, scoring nine goals and 21 points.
The Panthers are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They sit 28th in the league in goals per game (the Leafs are 10th) and have lost three straight heading into tonight.
The Panthers, however, can hang their hat on a pretty solid possession game (15th in the league), when the Leafs are woeful (29th) in that regard. If they can spend long periods of time in the Leafs’ end and not let Kessel and Co. burn them in transition, they could squeeze out a win.
The big question will be which side of goaltender Tim Thomas shows up for the Cats. Thomas had a sub-.900 save percentage in each of his last four games, but he had at least a .911 in 12 of his 13 games before that. Thomas has burned the Leafs in the past when as a member of the Boston Bruins, so maybe he’ll revert to Vezina Trophy-winning form when he sees blue-and-white jerseys coming his way.
The Leafs will counter with Jonathan Bernier as usual. David Clarkson and Frazer McLaren will return to the Leafs’ lineup while Troy Bodie will be a healthy scratch. Carter Ashton and Peter Holland are both out with injuries. For more on the lineups, viewing information and other notes, check out the preview.
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Comment below during the game. Got any predictions? I’m gonna say the Leafs win it 4-2, with the top line continuing their dominance.
GO LEAFS GO!