OTTAWA SENATORS at TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Time: 7:00 PM EST
Arena: Air Canada Centre
Opposition: Silver Seven Sens
As has been recently remarked, the Battle of Ontario has actual playoff implications, for the first time in several years. At time of writing, the Sens are sitting second in the Atlantic division, with 52 points in 43 games; the Leafs sit two back at 50 in 43. The Senators are outperforming their underlying numbers enough that the Leafs can reasonably hope to beat them to a spot this year. Winning tonight would really help.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner
Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Matt Martin - Frederik Gauthier - Nikita Soshnikov
Jake Gardiner - Connor Carrick
Martin Marincin - Nikita Zaitsev
Matt Hunwick - Roman Polak
The big news seems to be that Martin Marincin is ready for a return to action, and that Frank Corrado will thus return to his familiar home in the pressbox. Corrado had a rough night against New York on Thursday, and did little to snag the job Mike Babcock seems uninterested in giving him anyway. Gardiner-Carrick will be leaned on heavily in the absence of Morgan Rielly.
Beyond that, all is as ever, as the Leafs count on their speed and their heavy-artillery top nine to win them games.
Zach Smith - Derrick Brassard - Mark Stone
Mike Hoffman - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Tom Pyatt
Ryan Dzingel - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan
Chris Kelly - Curtis Lazar - Chris Neil
Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf - Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki - Chris Wideman
The Sens have some genuine forward talent now, led by RW phenom Mark Stone, though of course their fans have to ruin it by whining about how he doesn’t get as much attention as Auston Matthews. Former star winger Bobby Ryan and young prospect Curtis Lazar are both mired in miserable seasons and would love to break out.
Erik Karlsson continues to be possibly the best defenceman on the planet; after him the Sens defence is unimpressive, though Dion Phaneuf has been faring somewhat better as an Ottawa second-pairing guy than as the 1D the Leafs tried to make him into.
Sens starter Craig Anderson is still away from the team as his wife Nicholle undergoes treatment for cancer; here’s hoping Nicholle makes a full recovery. In Craig’s absence, the Sens have turned to Mike Condon to man the net; we’re expecting to see him tonight, but he’s as yet unconfirmed.
The Sens aren’t impressing in a possession sense, but they’re pushing shots somewhat to the outside and have succeeded with an excellent record in close games. The Leafs are probably the better team even with my homer goggles off, but they’re too sloppy defensively to take anything as guaranteed and not good enough to beat Ottawa at less than 100% performance. This is a big one. Go Leafs go.