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Game Preview - Leafs vs. Caps: Kom at me, bro!


Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

In all the hoopla of the past 24 hours, you may have forgotten that the Leafs still have that whole goal scoring competition to attend to. After being kicked out of the ACC for weeks to make room for the display of the largest hockey jersey ever, the Leafs briefly return to host the Capitals tonight, and the Blue Jackets Friday, before departing again for the bane of Eastern Conference teams in every sport: the California road trip (I'm just guessing about the other sports).

Speaking of hoopla, the Caps are still hungover from their Winter Classic. It was clearly meh compared to that time the Leafs did it, but some Japer's Rink posters thought it was the bestest thing ever. My scientific PPPPoll, conducted here, determined that 33% of respondents watched and enjoyed it; while 16% watched it and thought it was meh! So everyone from Japer's Rink, you can now do this to me.

Tonight also brings us a reunion of some old acquaintances. The last time these two teams met Ovechkin flattened Komarov with a nasty hit that left him with a concussion and kept him from playing for most of December. Komarov and Ovechkin both played for Dynamo, but they were only together on the roster during the 2012-13 lockout. It's possible they know each other well, but I'm guessing Komarov was just being Komarov, got under Ovi's skin, and pissed him off. I expect some big-time chirping tonight, and maybe some more physical play.

It is expected that Andre Burakovsky will be playing on the Caps top line tonight. You may be wondering who the hell that is. The last time these two teams met back in November, Burakovsky had the lowest ice time of all Caps skaters, at just over 10 minutes (somewhere, Carter Ashton just started crying, or likely started crying more). Burakovsky was the Caps first round pick, 23rd overall, from the 2013 draft. The Leafs picked two spots earlier, and chose Gauthier.... Burakovsky is now playing with Ovechkin and Backstrom with 0.5 PPG. Gauthier is now getting just about a PPG in the Q, ranking him only fourth on his team for PPG, behind some undrafted players. But, hey, "you can't teach, size."

It sounds like Bernier and Holtby will be starting goalies. Bernier has been great, though I've read he's been getting up a little early each morning because he leaves his phone on at night instead of silencing it. Meanwhile Holtby has been carrying his team for a really long time.

As for the Leafs' lines... who knows! Our new interim coaching staff of Hoarchek, Spott, and Staios will likley shake things up a bit. There are rumours Kadri will be on the top line. We will see.

Sounds promising!

Species' Scoop

THE LOCAL BOY: Take your pick, Joel Ward or Tom Wilson. I'm sure both will have family here tonight, and we'll have to listen through some insufferable interviews about this, but I bet neither tops Gardiner's 100+ friends who showed up to see him in St. Paul last week. Ward has cooled off significantly from what now looks like a career year last season. Wilson is the Tyler Biggs that accidentally made it into the league. So I'll bet on Wilson scoring a hat-trick.

THE EX-LEAF: Well look at that, there are none. I'll make backup goalie Justin Peters an honourary ex-Leaf because he played for the St. Mike's Majors growing up.

THE LOCAL SCENE: Japer's Rink has the scoop from the capitals point of view.

WHAT AM I DRINKING TONIGHT? Something from Indie Ale because of this awesome tweet.

Game time is 7PM on Sportsnet.