Minnesota Wild vs Toronto Maple Leafs: Game 17
Time: 7:30 PM
Location: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
Opponent SBNation Site: Hockey Wilderness
After an unconvincing win against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, the Leafs face the Wild tonight. Minnesota is a good team, though they haven’t looked it at times this year, scuffling along at 5-6-2. Believe it or not, they’re in the basement of the tough Central division, albeit partly because they’ve only played 13 games. That said, their results are mediocre, to be kind.
Nonetheless, it’d be stupid to read too much into their slow start. Bruce Boudreau teams are invariably good (in the regular season), and while the Wild don’t have big-name offensive superstars dotting their forward lineup, Nino Neiderreiter, Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, and Eric Staal will surprise you with how good they are. Their biggest strength though, is on D, where their top 4 is the envy of almost every team in the league (and certainly the Leafs). Devan Dubnyk has revitalized his career there, giving them a solid option in net. It was originally reported that Alex Stalock would start against the Leafs, as his wife is about to give birth, so Dubnyk will come in.
The big story from the Leafs perspective has to be the health of Auston Matthews. There was uncertainty in the leadup as to whether he would play tonight, and the Leafs lines look way worse without him, especially in this bizarre setup Mike Babcock has where he spreads out his three worst offensive players on three separate lines. According to Kristen Shilton, Matthews is day-to-day right now:
Matthews is dealing with upper-body injury, is day-to-day— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) November 8, 2017
So the Leafs are going to have to do it without their best player. For now, we’ll assume the Leafs (terrible) practice lines from yesterday are what they’re going with. Gauthier, Polak, and Carrick were the ones at the optional skate, so we’re also unclear on who the 3rd pair RD is.
James van Riemsdyk - Patrick Marleau - Zach Hyman
Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Connor Brown - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner
Matt Martin - Dominic Moore - Josh Leivo
Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Andreas Borgman - Connor Carrick
Jason Zucker - Eric Staal - Chris Stewart
Nino Neiderreiter - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Daniel Winnik - Joel Eriksson-Ek - Tyler Ennis
Marcus Foligno - Matt Cullen - Luke Kunin
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Mathew Dumba
Kyle Quincey - Mike Reilly
Check out Babcock’s press scrum for how he sees Zaitsev, Rielly and Matthews. I think there’s some tire pumping going on there in places, but he’s not one to do more than exaggerate his praise.
It sounds like the lines will be arranged in some way, not necessarily as above to line match the Wild, as was done against Vegas.