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Preview: Toronto Maple Leafs head to Columbus to silence that cannon

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In the first of a back-to-back, the Leafs make a quick trip to Columbus to face a team trying to be first overall in the NHL.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs at Columbus Blue Jackets: Game 72

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: The National Artillery Range of Ohio

Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet, TVAS, Fox Sports - Ohio

Opponent SBNation Site: Jackets Cannon

No one thinks this is going to be easy.

The Jackets have 100 points, two behind the first-place Washington Capitals, have clinched a playoff spot and, like any team would, want to be first in the league. The knot of top three teams in the Metro are all in range of the Presidents’ Trophy.

The Leafs want to cement their spot in the playoffs and are also eyeing the Boston Bruins as catchable. A win tonight vaults the Leafs into third place in the Atlantic over the Bruins. The Leafs did just take three of four points from the Chicago Blackhawks and those Bruins. They can, at times, compete with the best teams in the league.

Toronto has only played Columbus once before this season, a 5-2 loss in February, and after tonight, they also meet in the last game of the season.

In that first Columbus game, the Leafs put Curtis McElhinney in net, and he was not very good, giving up four goals on 34 shots. And therein lies the Leafs’ problem right now. They go right back home after this game to host the New Jersey Devils. Do they throw McElhinney to the wolves again and use the very hot Frederik Andersen to get an easier two points against the Devils, or do they go for it with Andersen against the tougher team?

The other option is to just play Andersen in both games and assume a tired Andersen vs the Devils is enough. I’m glad I don’t have to make this decision.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Connor Brown

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander

Matt Martin - Brian Boyle - Nikita Soshnikov

Defence Pairings

There were no pairings in the last game, it was an ever-changing assortment of pairs, with some switching of left and right side as well. It worked, and it even led more than one person to remark on how good Roman Polak and Matt Hunwick looked.

Connor Carrick, Jake Gardiner, Matt Hunwick, Roman Polak, Morgan Rielly, Nikita Zaitsev

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Columbus Blue Jackets

From the most recent game preview on Jackets Cannon:

Forward Lines

Brandon Saad - Sam Gagner - Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Josh Anderson

Scott Hartnell - William Karlsson - Matt Calvert

Defence Pairings

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Kyle Quincey - Markus Nutivaara

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo


Lineups subject to the whims of their coaches, of course. Columbus has Scott Harrington sitting in the pressbox most of the time. He’s a marginal defender, not quite NHL quality, and he’s not waiver exempt, so as is common across the NHL, he plays very little. He has 31 NHL games in the last two years, but he has played twice in March for the Jackets.

Columbus has goaltending decisions to make too. They are also playing a back-to-back, only they fly off to Washington for tomorrow’s game, the team they want to take first place from. So who do they show Bobrovsky to, and who gets Korpisalo?

We will update this post with any lineup news, but in the meantime, maybe practice saying Go Leafs Go louder than a cannon blast.