Coming off what is arguably their biggest win of the season, the Leafs look to win two games in a row for the first time since their 4-0-0 run to open the season. The team currently sits at a junction; get a win tonight and build more momentum to salvage the season and make a run at the playoffs, or lose and descend back into the depths from whence they came. Fortunately for the Leafs, tonight they face the 3rd worst team (somehow) in hockey in the New Jersey Devils. Despite tons of offseason hype about them handily winning the division, their season has been disastrous with a paltry record of 5-11-2.
If you thought Toronto's offense was terrible, then be glad you're not a Devils fan. Averaging 1.83 goals a game, they are worst in the league. Granted that's not much worse than Toronto's 2.35 (28th), but a team with their players should definitely be scoring more. Here are the projected forward lines for tonight:
Luca Caputi sits in the press box tonight.
Advantage: New Jersey
Why? Because they play a trap game, something that has proven quite effective against the Leafs this season especially Phil Kessel who has 1 goals in 3 games against trap teams so far in Boston and Florida. The 3rd line of Rolston - Zajac - Clarkson could easily be the Leafs 2nd line and they play a mean defensive game as well. Kovalchuk is always a threat when he's on the ice and absolutely feasts on the PP. The Leafs need to remain out of the penalty box to limit his game.
Follow me after the jump for the rest of the breakdown.
The one proud, defensive first Devil's concede on average 3.22 goals a game. Compare that to just last season where they had a league best 2.27 GAA. Ouch. The problem may be that New Jersey returned only 2 defense to their blueline this year; Colin White and Andy Greene. Off-season acquisitions Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder, both touted as good defensive defensemen, are a combined -9 with only 4 points between them in 18 man games played.
For the Leafs, the only change from Tuesday is that Keith Aulie is out and Carl Gunnarsson is in. That means that Brett #LikeaLebda is going to suit up for the Buds. Why Wilson would play him after his horrendous night on Tuesday is beyond me. At least Luke Schenn is turning into the beast we all knew he would. Your defensive pairings:
Because of Giguere's groin, Jonas Gustavsson gets the start in net. He came in cold during the third period on Tuesday and shut the door on Nashville. This could be just the opportunity he needs to show the Leafs that he can be their #1 going forward and earn himself the majority of starts for the rest of the season.
In the other crease, the venerable Martin Brodeur suits up for the Devils. Normally this would be a bad thing, but in the words of Chico Resch, whose shrill voice I get to hear to 2 1/2 hours tonight, "Marty just isn't Marty at the moment." A .901 sv% with a 2.73 GAA. Both are on pace to be the worst in his career. THE GOALIES!!!1
Why? Call it a hunch that the Monster will want to play like one to show he means business.
Overall this game can go one of two ways. Either the struggling offenses of both teams will be unable to penetrate the defenses of each other and result in a close 1-0, or 2-1 game. Or it will be an absolute gong show to the tune of 7-5 as both teams forsake defense and go headlong towards the net. Either way, I've got a feeling that Toronto comes out ahead in either scenario.
Be sure to check out the Devils' preview over at In Lou We Trust if you're so inclined.