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Game Preview: Minnesota Wild at the Toronto Maple Leafs

Baby Leafs' first NHL back-to-back! Who scores for the first time tonight?

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild at Toronto Maple Leafs

7:30PM - Air Canada Centre

TV: Sportsnet Ontario RADIO: Sportsnet 590

SBN: Hockey Wilderness

Head to Head

Teams Minnesota Toronto
Record 29-25-10 21-31-10
Conference 8th in west 16th in east
League 17th 30th
Goals +/- 170/162 = +8 149/185 = -36
Top Scorer Charlie Coyle (21) Leo Komarov (18)
Top Points Mikko Koivu (43) Leo Komarov (35)
Goalie Devan Dubnyk .917/2.39 Garret Sparks .917/2.48
Mascot Nordy Carlton


The Minnesota Wild are struggling in a tough division. They need to munch points to maintain their hold on the last wildcard slot in the West, tied with the Colorado Avalanche at 68 points each. At the trade deadline, GM Chuck Fletcher made only one important move, to trade redundant goaltender Niklas Backstrom (not that one) to the Calgary Flames for David Jones.

The Wild fanbase is ... not the happiest right now. Are they facing a rebuild this summer, including a new GM to match the interim coach? Speculation is, yes.

Prior to the season starting, Fletcher commented about how was happy with this team. They beat a tough St. Louis Blues team in the playoffs last year and ran into a Chicago Blackhawks squad that took no mercy. Maybe it was just posturing by Fletcher. He didn't have much cap space and his roster is littered with NMC's so what else can he say? Placing confidence in his team was really his only option at that point.

On the other side of the ice, the Leafs' rebuild is in full swing. Leafs' front office is nice and tidy, there are a wealth of options for the future, there are kids eager to play and win -- now it's just a matter of waiting until they learn how.

It's worth noting that tonight is the first NHL back-to-back that several of the kids will play. However, they'll undoubtedly find it a lot more relaxing than the back-to-back-to-backs that happen in the minors. Also, no all-night bus to the next venue!

How quickly can Nylander and Kapanen evolve?

Mike Babcock praised Soshnikov's play during press availability today, saying, "I loved him. Six finished checks. Pissed people off. They knew he was out there. He was for real."

This should be nothing but a goad for Nylander and Kapanen. After last night's game, Babcock said of them, "If you're not going to compete, it doesn't matter how much skill you have." Damn, kids. You better wake up!

[Illustrative analytics and explanation by Katya:]

A quick look at the rookie shooting from the two games played shows a little of what Babcock was seeing. This is individual high-danger shots (iHSC), individual scoring chances(iSC) and individual shots (iCF)

In the Tampa game, Kapanen and Shoshnikov were getting it done, and Nylander was not as effective even though his line matchup was carefully restricted. In the Capitals game, Soshnikov stayed good, Hyman got better, and our other two boys in blue? Not so good. Remember that in the Tampa game, the Leafs dominated offensively, so you should expect more chances there than in Washington which was a closer game.

[Thank you, Katya!]

The one change in the lineup is that Brad Boyes is injured, so he'll be replaced by Brendan Leipsic. And this is an interesting observation from Mr. PlatinumSeatGhosts:

Platinum Seat Ghosts @3rdPeriodSuits
Leafs current active 23-man roster:

Average age: 25
Players with a cap hit less than 1M: 13
Average cap hit: 1.71M
Total cap hit: 39.3M

...Meaning that the Leafs' roster on the ice tonight is about 13M below the cap floor. SIGN MATT CARLE!

Leafs Lines

Nikita Soshnikov - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
Michael Grabner - William Nylander - Zach Hyman
Brendan Leipsic - Peter Holland - Kasperi Kapanen
Colin Greening - Ben Smith - Brooks Laich

Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner - Frank Corrado
Martin Marincin - Connor Carrick

Garret Sparks
Jonathan Bernier

Wild Lines

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle
Chris Porter - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek
Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville
Ryan Carter - Jarret Stoll - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella - Mathew Dumba
Mike Reilly - Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk
Darcy Kuemper