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Leafs vs. Coyotes preview: Right back to where we started from

Will you please do the thing you do!?

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Coyotes at Toronto Maple Leafs:

Time: 7:00 PM ET

Location: Scotiabank Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: NHLN, SN, FS-A Plus

Opponent SBNation Site: Five for Howling

In the land of hockey, one does not hope or wish to “destroy” or “embarrass” an opponent. You go in, play well, get a 2-1 or 3-1 decision, add two points to the standings, and be off on your merry way. That’s swell and all, but the Leafs need two things from tonight’s match: they need to win and they need to win big.

Friday’s loss to the Florida Panthers was their sixth in ten games, and it’s allowed in the Atlantic Division to catch up. The Montreal Canadiens for example are only a single point behind the Leafs and even the New York Islanders have managed to make it to 60. But the rest of that doesn’t matter as much. Boston being one point behind as well is concerning given the goal of the season has transitioned from ‘dominate the league’ to ‘ensure home-ice in the first-round.’

Although the team has played well in some of those losses, the results have been on a not-so-nice rollercoaster. And here is where a call to action is in need.

The game against Tampa Bay saw Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau end some scoring slumps, and the Leafs need more of that. Auston Matthews looks to be on the brink of potting six goals in a row given the wave of bad luck he’s found himself in. You can see the frustration from him on the ice and some of his comments may hint at a breaking point.

It’s not only Matthews. William Nylander needs to get going, the team defence needs to get going, and Mitch Marner needs to stop going or we won’t be able to afford him (just kidding, fly, Mitchell, fly).

Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

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

Defence Pairings

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

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen (starter)
Garret Sparks

Martin Marincin will play tonight, not word yet on the pairing arrangements.

Arizona Coyotes

Forward Lines

Clayton Keller - Jordan Weal - Christian Fischer
Richard Panik - Derek Stepan - Vinnie Hinostroza
Alex Galchenyuk - Nick Cousins - Conor Garland
Lawson Crouse - Mario Kempe - Josh Archibald

Defence Pairings

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Jakob Chychrun - Ilya Lyubushkin
Jordan Oesterle - Alex Goligoski

Goaltenders

Darcy Kuemper
Calvin Pickard


Leafs vs. Senators

Maple Leafs Team Senators
Maple Leafs Team Senators
32-17-3 Record 19-28-5
185 GF - 146 GA - + 39 Goal Differential 159 GF - 194 GA - -35
21.2% - 13th Power Play 21.1% - 14th
80.5% - 14th Penalty Kill 76.4% - 27th
John Tavares - 31 Most Goals Mark Stone - 22
Mitch Marner - 43 Most Assists Thomas Chabot/Mark Stone - 29
Mitch Marner - 63 Most Points Mark Stone - 51
Hyman - 48 Most PIM Mark Borowiecki - 79
Morgan Rielly - 22:43 TOI Leader Thomas Chabot - 24:02
Frederik Andersen - .923 Sv% Starting Goaltender Craig Anderson - .906 Sv%

It’s the perfect time in the schedule to take on a club like the Coyotes. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be a complete cake-walk.

The poor state of the Western Conference, in particular the Pacific Division, has Arizona within arms reach of a playoff spot. They’re currently five points out and haven’t had the worst record lately going 5-3-2 in their last ten. That’s a recipe for determination out of a club hoping to turn things around.

Another thing to make note of, which may worry the Leafs a bit, is Arizona’s top-ranked penalty kill. There is a bit of magical dust around it, though. The Coyotes are one of the least penalized teams in the league being shorthanded 140 times so far. Sure they’ve only allowed 18 goals in those opportunities but it isn’t unbreakable.

Ask the Pittsburgh Penguins who scored twice on the powerplay in their last game against Arizona, including the overtime game-winning goal.

In homage to Team Four Star, I finish with this: You are more than just our team. You are the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now plant your feet, grit your teeth, and eat that horse!

In other words, win please.