As James Mirtle points out in his own game preview, the Yotes are 6-1-2 in their last nine, and although the Leafs are 3-3-0 in their last six, they are decidedly the colder team going into tonight's match-up. Here's hoping that we can turn this slump around.
I don't know if you're as tired of this theme as I am, but goaltending is probably the biggest question mark going into this game. The Leafs will be starting Ben Scrivens, and while I fully endorse that decision, Scrivens is still totally green, and there' no telling if we're going to see the Scrivens that played against St. Louis, or the Scrivens that came in relief of Gustavsson against Boston.
Mike Smith has posted a .931 so far, and while this is fantastic news for my fantasy hockey team, it's less good for the Leafs. The Coyotes are well known for playing a very steady, defensive game, and I shouldn't have to remind you that the Leafs have struggled against these kinds of systems. If Phoenix jumps out to an early lead, it could be a tough uphill battle.
The good news is that the Leafs are 7th in the league in terms of Goals For/Game with 2.88, but the bad news is that the Coyotes have somehow managed to be 9th with 2.87, so the Buds don't really hold any advantage in this regard. The Leafs are going to have be play very careful defence, and be very patient on offence.
Dave Tippett & Co. are likely going to 1-3-1 our team speed into oblivion, so let's hope for a few ugly goals.
In terms of special teams, Phoenix currently sits at 17th overall on the PP (that's a 15.7% success rate), while the Leafs sit at 15th, and 15.9%. Much like the Leafs, it appears the Coyotes rely most on scoring 5-on-5. The Leafs will likely have to rely exclusively on their 5-on-5 play, as Phoenix's PK is 4th in the league, with an 88.7% success rate.
Here are a few notes and the lineups from James Mirtle's article:
- The Leafs will give rookie Ben Scrivens his third straight start and fifth in the past six games as Wilson continues to be reluctant to use Jonas Gustavsson. Toronto has back-to-back games this weekend and may have to turn to The Monster soon.
- Tippett said he always felt Smith was a No. 1 goaltender when he coached him in Dallas and he was the backup. He credited goalie coach Sean Burke for his work in getting him over his poor play and injuries over the past couple seasons.
- Tim Connolly continues to get close to a return but won't be in the lineup. Expect to see him (and likely former Preds defenceman Cody Franson) play in Nashville on Thursday, however.
- Colton Orr missed the morning skate due to illness.
Lupul - Bozak - Kessel
MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin
Lombardi - Steckel - Frattin
Brown - Dupuis - Crabb
Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Liles - Komisarek
Gardiner - Schenn
Coyotes lineup (based on latest game)
Whitney - Hanzal - Vrbata
Korpikoski - Gordon - Pyatt
Boedker - O'Reilly - Doan
Torres - Chipchura - O'Sullivan
Yandle - Morris
Klesla - Schlemko
Ekman-Larsson - Aucoin