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Preview: New York Islanders at Toronto Maple Leafs

The new kids are still looking for their first win.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports


New York Islanders at Toronto Maple Leafs

7:00PM - Air Canada Centre

TV: Sportsnet - RADIO: Sportsnet 590

SBN: Lighthouse Hockey


Head to Head

Teams New York Islanders Toronto
Record 37-20-7 21-33-11
Conference 5th in East 16th in East
League 10th 30th
Goals +/- 186/159 = +27 155/194 = -39
Top Scorer John Tavares (24) Leo Komarov (19)
Top Points Tavares (52) Kyle Okposo (52) Leo Komarov (36)
Goalie Thomas Greiss .930/2.20 Garret Sparks .913/2.47
Mascot Sparky the Dragon Carlton

Storylines

You know a rebuild is going well when your freshly returned-from-injury forward is barely able to repress his glee at being able to play with the new call-up from the minors. "I got to play with Willie in camp a little bit. I'm looking forward to playing with the kids," PA Parenteau said after practice yesterday. When asked whether he wants to be around next season to play with them more, he gave a resigned shrug and said, "It is what it is." I think this is hockey speak for "IDK," or maybe "In Lou I trust?????"

Matt Hunwick is out with season-ending sports hernia surgery, which gives Victor Loov another moment to shine. I wrote the Loov piece for T25U25, and when I wrote it, I remember thinking, "This guy has an edginess to his play like a budding Niklas Kronwall, and I think Babcock is going to like it. He walks that line between hard, fierce player and total a******, and has to hone his skill to not permanently injure anyone."

Jonas Siegel @jonassiegel

TJ Brennan recalled to replace injured Viktor Loov.

So yeah. About TJ Brennan. In January, Katya asked whether he was the best defenseman in the AHL, and the answer was, probably.

In February, Flow Jerguson fanposted about him, pointing out that although he is at the top of the AHL in point production, he hasn't been able to hold down a spot in the NHL. But why? Flow says:

As T.J. Brennan is learning the hard way, it's not that simple. He finds himself unable to make a lean Leafs blue line, despite putting up point per game numbers in the AHL and doing so for the last FOUR seasons. He has good size, respectable skating, and a booming shot from the point, so why has Brennan not had an extended run as an NHL defenseman?

One of the most common knocks against him is that although he's great offensively, he can't make his defensive game transition well to the NHL. Flow's fanpost does a nice job of looking at his defensive role, and compares him favorably to Cody Franson, however. So what is actually going on with Brennan, and as a 27 year old veteran who hasn't been in the NHL for more than 11 games, why can't he stick? Flow thinks it's just bad luck:

I think Brennan's unique skill set and perhaps mediocre defensive game has made it difficult for him to get an extended stint with an NHL team. The more time that goes on with less NHL experience he has, the more teams are going to be weary of putting him there. Kind of like that whole job hunting trope where you need experience to get a job but need to get a job to get experience.

Tonight, with Loov injured and Hunwick out for the season, let's see if he has what it takes to stick!

Leafs Lines

Nikita Soshnikov - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
PA Parenteau - William Nylander - Zach Hyman
Milan Michalek - Peter Holland - Michael Grabner
Colin Greening - Ben Smith - Brooks Laich

Martin Marincin - Morgan Rielly
Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick
TJ Brennan Victor Loov - Frank Corrado

Garret Sparks
Jonathan Bernier

Islanders Lines

Brock Nelson - John Tavares - Ryan Strome
Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
Shane Prince - Nikolay Kulemin - Anders Lee
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk
Travis Hamonic - Thomas Hickey
Brian Strait - Ryan Pulock

Thomas Greiss
Jaroslav Halak