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Preview: Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs

Rich Clune, Willie Mitchell, and more.

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Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images


Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs

7:30PM - Air Canada Centre

TV: TSN4 - RADIO: TSN Radio 1050

SBN: Litterboxcats


Head to Head

Teams Old Guys Young Guys
Record 44-25-9 28-39-11
Conference 3rd in East 16th in East
League 8th 29th
Cool SBN writer Todd El Seldo
Top Scorer Jaromir Jagr (26) Aleksander Barkov (26) P.A. Parenteau (19)
Top Points Jaromir Jagr (62) Nazem Kadri (45)
Goalie Al Montoya (2.09/.923) Jonathan Bernier (2.84/.907)
All-time playoff appearances 5 (including this season) 65

Storylines

(1) Is it possible that Willie Mitchell will retire due to concussions?

Florida Panther captain Mitchell has been out of the Panthers lineup since January 8th, when he suffered the 7th concussion of his career. At almost 39 years old, he is contemplating retirement. He spoke to Sportsnet recently about how the game needs to return to the days of Brendan Shanahan's player safety office, and how he wants to make sure the game is safe for a rising crop of players.

Mitchell insists players want more protection from head injuries, and he says the NHL could help by issuing longer suspensions to those who deliver blows to the head.

"The league needs to do a better job," Mitchell said. "Guys need protection.

"There’s a concern with players. Guys are worried about it. Guys talk about it – the league isn’t doing enough to protect the players," Mitchell said. "A couple of years back, a 20-game suspension was a message. You’d be missing games, you get a big chunk of money taken from your pocket – a quarter of your (annual) salary gone. Those suspensions had gotten the game safer – still physical, still fast. Shanny (Brendan Shanahan, then the league’s chief disciplinarian) did a great job. But it’s not like that now."

We are all aware of how excellent Shanahan was regarding player safety, especially after seeing his emails.

Time for Chris Pronger to step up.

(2) Welcome, Rich Clune.

Last we saw of Marlies captain Rich Clune, he was in a brawl that caused him to get a game misconduct.

From Species' Marlies game recap:

Shortly following the subsequent face-off, a big hit on Ty Stanton, who was recently signed to an ATO out of the WHL, led to a mini-scrum in the corner. Rich Clune, who was wearing the 'C' for this game, decided to wade into it and it quickly escalated as he flew in fists first, not particularly discriminatory about who they punched.

When the whole mess was over, Clune had earned a 10 minute misconduct and a double minor for roughing. Taylor Doherty also picked up a roughing penalty, and the Griffins' Louis-Marc Aubry.

Will he bring this energy to the Leafs fourth line tonight?

(3) Nazem Kadri is suspended for the rest of the season.

How to not report on it:

Jim Matheson @NHLbyMatty
Not sure if Kadri is married but if he was, his wife might be telling him to grow up, losing almost 400 grand in salary

Better story over here.

(4) Bernier's in the lineup tonight, but what's going on with Garret Sparks?

Sparks' SV% is tanking (currently sitting at .897), and his last loss against the Red Wings have caused beat writers to start penning articles entitled things like "Garret Sparks Needs Fire." He admitted that he allowed two soft goals against the Red Wings, and is very aware that some of his bad habits are things he repeats often. These errors would be acceptable in an ECHL-level goaltender, or even an AHL one, but Mirtle points out that Mike Babcock has zero patience with goaltenders who lack confidence in their game.

Sparks has a reputation as a good kid and a hard worker whose style remains raw and who – despite his success with the Marlies – obviously needed work to succeed at the NHL level. He has come a long way since he was a seventh-round pick fewer than five years ago, and it’s possible he is a late-bloomer.

But what’s becoming more clear is whoever the Leafs’ long-term goalie is going to be under Babcock, he is going to have to have an unshakable, resolute psyche. This is a coach who never minces words, and as he showed with Jonathan Bernier’s struggles early in the year, he has little time for crises of confidence.

Does he return to the AHL next season, or get dealt?

From the Game Notes

  • Nazem Kadri leads the Maple Leafs in assists (28), points (45), power play points (14), shots (260) and penalty minutes (73). He has recorded eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last six games.
  • Morgan Rielly leads all Maple Leafs defencemen with 34 points (eight goals, 26 assists) and leads all Toronto skaters in average ice time per game (23:08)
  • William Nylander has collected seven points (three goals, four assists) in his last eight games.
  • In his last six starts, Jonathan Bernier owns a 4-2-0 record with a .952 save percentage and a 1.53 goals against average. He has not allowed more than two goals in each on his last six appearances.
  • Tyler Bozak’s faceoff win percentage of 57.2% ranks fifth among all NHL players who have taken at least 900 faceoffs.
  • The Maple Leafs are averaging 31.0 shots on goal per game, the fifth-highest total in the NHL.
  • The Maple Leafs are 4-4-2 when playing on Monday nights this season (3-2-2 at home).

Leafs Lines

Tobias Lindberg - Tyler Bozak - Kasperi Kapanen
Colin Greening - William Nylander - P.A. Parenteau
Brooks Laich - Frederik Gauthier - Michael Grabner
Dickey Clune - Byron Froese - Brad Boyes

Morgan Rielly - Martin Marincin
Jake Gardiner - Frank Corrado
Andrew Campbell - T.J. Brennan

Jonathan Bernier
Garret Sparks

Fancy Cats

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Reilly Smith
Teddy Purcell - Rocco Grimaldi - Jiri Hudler
Quinton Howden - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad
Dmitry Kulikov - Steve Kampfer
Jakub Kindl - Erik Gudbranson

Al Montoya
Roberto Luongo