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Game Preview: Maple Leafs @ Panthers

The Leafs hope to finish their back-to-back Florida road trip with another win.

Florida Panthers v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Florida Panthers
Time: 7:00PM
Location: Somewhere WAY warmer than Toronto
Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet Ontario (blackouts in effect)
Opponent SBNation Site: Litter Box Cats

The Maple Leafs play the second half of their Florida road trip tonight against the Panthers. Things certainly started off well with a 4-2 win last night against the Lightning.

Admit it. You were really nervous about that game and how it would go. After the loss against the Bruins, then that fiasco against the Avalanche on Tuesday, this team needed to make a statement that they are the real deal. And they did.

Now to follow-up with proof.

Sure, we all remember back in December when the Leafs rolled over the Panthers, winning 6-1, but there was a game a few days before that which the Panthers won 4-3 in overtime, and that was a game where Andersen was in net.

Maple Leafs

(based on yesterday’s game)

Forward Lines

Andreas Johnsson - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Kasperi Kapanen
Par Lindholm - Frederik Gauthier - Connor Brown

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott - Igor Ozhiganov

Goaltenders

Garret Sparks (expected to be the starter)
Frederik Andersen

Florida Panthers

(based on the morning skate)

Forward Lines

Frank Vatrano - Aleksander Barkov - Evgeni Dadonov
Jonathan Huberdeau - Henrik Borgstrom - Nick Bjugstad
Mike Hoffman - Jared McCann - Denis Malgin
Jace Hawryluk - Juuko Lammikko - Colton Sceviour

Defence Pairings

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Mark Pysyk
Ian McCoshen - Josh Brown

Goaltenders

Roberto Luongo (expected to be the starter)
James Reimer (forever in our hearts)

Brown is in for MacKenzie Weegar who is out and expected to stay out for a long time with a concussion and after taking this hit from Paul Byron in their game Tuesday.

Byron is suspended for three games.

The Game

Unlike the Western Conference, where the Panthers’ 42 points would place them only three wins back of a playoff spot, here in the east they are seven wins back. While they do have one or two games-in-hand on all other teams in the conference, if they are going to make a last desperate stand to make it in to the playoffs via one of the Wild Card slots they basically have to start tonight.

The Lightning were kind enough to allow the Leafs to bust all kinds of goal slumps last night, but I don’t expect the Panthers to do the same. The Panthers last game was on Tuesday in Montreal which they lost 5-1. But they are well rested, and they are desperate. Less than 24 hours earlier gave everything they had to give a bloddy nose to the the very best of the league. While we should expect the unexpected tonight, a win would be a massive statement by the Leafs that, no, they are not in a slump, they are contenders.

I hope you enjoy the game tonight as there won’t be one on Hockey Night in Canada tomorrow. After finishing up in Sunrise the Leafs will head home to host the Coyotes for an oddball Sunday game.