Bridgestone Arena; Nashville, TN
8:00 p.m. ET; TSN4: THE QUATTRO!
SBN Tim McGraw Fanclub: On The Forecheck
After a terrible, no good, very bad October, the Leafs roll into Tennessee with a somewhat respectable 2-1-2 record in November. This is important, as I am told that this is when the games matter. While both wins were (somehow) against a Dallas Stars team that sits atop the Western Conference, they also collected respectable loser points against a very good Washington team and on a last-minute Dion Phaneuf goal against his former future team in Detroit to tie the game.
Jonathan Bernier has been injured, which means it is indeed Reim Time. James Reimer has been strong in relief, posting a very respectable .918 SV%, including an excellent .938 SV% in his previous five starts. That is in spite of allowing a few comically bad goals over that stretch. Just as it was responsible for a 1-7-2 record in October, goaltending has been the reason the Leafs have collected points in four of five in November.
Tonight's opponent is the Nashville Predators, a team with a 9-3-2 record that sits fourth in the Central Division. No, you did not read that wrong. The Predators are fourth. They occupy the first wild card spot, while 5th place Winnipeg holds the second, and 6th place Chicago is on the brink. The Central Division is nuts.
The Predators sit ninth in GF/G, but have a largely balanced attack. Beyond James Neal's 7 goals, no other player has more than four. Eleven players have two or more goals, compared to the Leafs' 8. The Preds' leading scorers are Neal (7G, 4A, 11P) and Roman Josi (4G, 7A, 11P), while close behind are Filip Forsberg (2G, 7A, 9P) and Shea Weber (4G, 4A, 8P). Despite 8 points, noted scumbag human Mike Ribeiro has only one goal because there is a just and kind God.
Preds goalie Pekka Rinne has not been as good as last season, posting just a .910 SV%. Strong defense, however, has bailed him out. The Preds are a top 5 possession team in the NHL (52.8% 5v5 CF) and are 8th in SA/G, with just 28.
Probable Leaf Lineup
Per Paul Hendrick, these are the lines Babcock used at practice this morning. Daniel Winnik returns to the lineup, replacing Brad Boyes because Byron Froese has compromising photos of Mike Babcock or something? I don't know. James Reimer gets his sixth straight start for the first time since 2013.
van Riemsdyk - Kadri - Komarov
Matthias - Bozak - Parenteau
Winnik - Spaling - Lupul
Grabner - Froese - Holland
Gardiner - Phaneuf
Hunwick - Rielly
Harrington - Polak
Probable Nashville Lineup
Per Predators beat writer Adam Vingan, the lines at Nashville's morning skate. Defensive pairs provided by the Predators' website. Pekka Rinne is expected to start tonight.
Filip Forsberg - Mike Fisher - James Neal
Colin Wilson - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith
Miikka Salomaki - Calle Jarnkrok - Cody Hodgson
Gabriel Bourque - Colton Sissons - Austin Watson
Roman Josi - Shea Weber
Barret Jackman - Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis
Key To The Game
Playing a strong Central Division team that's solid at puck possession? No worries; Leafs have this in the bag!
At 9:48 of the second period, Shea Weber's beard finally gains self-awareness. It will go on to score two powerplay goals.