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Game Preview: Leafs have a Wild time in the Twin Cities

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And then tonight they play the Minnesota Wild.

Minnesota Wild v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs at Minnesota Wild: Game # 33

Time: 8:00 p.m.

Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet Ontario, Fox Sports - North

Opponent SBNation Site: Hockey Wilderness

On Wednesday, the Leafs gad a great time in Minneapolis-Saint Paul having an outdoor practice tournament in a three-on-three format. They played four teams, with some local high school goalies, as Frederik Andersen and Curtis McElhinney were there on skates, but no pads.

The trophy was Jake Gardiner’s old squirt hockey team trophy, and apparently Team Kadri won the day by cleverly having Morgan Rielly on the team.

Auston Matthews did not take part, although he is on this road trip, but he is not playing in today’s game. So we’re left wondering if Kasperi Kapanen plays or not. The Leafs need some offensive spark, so I say he should play.

This is the first of a back-to-back, so normally, we’d see Andersen in net with McElhinney getting the start tomorrow in Detroit.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Best guess based on who is available.

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Patrick Marleau - William Nylander

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - Connor Brown/Kasperi Kapanen

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner

Matt Martin - Dominic Moore - Josh Leivo/Connor Brown

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey

Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev

Andreas Borgman - Roman Polak/Connor Carrick


Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Minnesota Wild

Lines from are as of most recent game.

Forward Lines

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Mikael Granlund

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Joel Eriksson Ek - Matt Cullen - Zack Mitchell

Marcus Foligno - Daniel Winnik - Chris Stewart

Defence Pairings

Ryan Suter - Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin - Ryan Murphy

Gustav Olofsson - Nate Prosser


Alex Stalock

Steve Michalek

Meanwhile on the other side of the ice, the Wild have a bit of a problem. Devan Dubnyk was injured in the last game and left the ice, and is now week to week. The Leafs will face Alex Stalock instead, a sort of reclamation project for the Wild that seems to be working out, in that Stalock is turning in just below average performances, or not too bad for a backup to a star goalie. Backing him up is Steve Michalek, who does not pronounce his name like Milan does.

Be prepared to hear long stories tonight about Stalock’s brief stay on the Marlies the year before last after the Sharks dumped him in a trade.

On the plus side, the Wild have Jared Spurgeon back practising with them, but he is not expected to play. Zach Parise was on the ice for the first time today as well, but he is still on LTIR.

The Wild are the most misnamed team in the NHL. Anaheim more resemble ducks than this team seems wild or exciting or really like they’re doing anything at all sometimes.

They are struggling to hold a playoff spot in a division that’s got a bunch of teams tied or nearly tied at the wildcard level. They have, at times, flirted with trying to keep the Colorado Avalanche from finishing last, and their score and venue adjusted Corsi For percentage is fifth worst in the league. Right now, the majority of the teams in the NHL are knotted up around 50% plus or minus two percentage points. The Wild are at 46.6%.

They are getting this horrible number by being really bad at offence. Only Buffalo has a lower pace of Corsi For. In terms of shots against, they’re virtually tied with the Leafs, which is not where you want to be. The Leafs, are 14th in offensive pace, which is worrying for us, but still drastically more than the Wild produce.

While the Wild execute defensively better than the Leafs do — most teams do, to be honest — that fairly high pace of shots against takes up time, time they aren’t using to score goals, and since their offensive pace is so low, they could obviously use some more offensive zone time.

The Wild’s Goals For percentage matches their CF%, which means it is very bad, while the Leafs dramatically outperform any kind of expectation (mathematical or otherwise) in their GF%.

The Wild have one very good line, strength down the middle, some questionable wingers and depth lines, bad depth defenders and a below average goalie. Come on, Leafs, get going against this team. It’s like they were made to make the Leafs feel good about themselves, even without Auston Matthews.

Updated with some new and different lines.

When comparing them to Minnesota’s set up, you see some more balance in the top nine than usual, with the idea that one of those lines gets matched against the lesser depth on the Wild.

Here’s the guy who puts it better than I did: