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Leafs vs. Predators Preview: The Second Half

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One of the top teams in the West comes East to face our boys.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Nashville Predators: Game 42

Time: 7:00 PM

Location: Scotiabank Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet Ontario

Opponent SBNation Site: On The Forecheck

The Leafs kick off the second half of the season tonight, taking on the Nashville Predators. This might be the best forward group against the best defence group in the NHL, though of course Tampa has a claim to both titles. Let’s roll.

Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

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

Defence Pairings

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

Goaltenders

Michael Hutchinson
Kasimir Kaskisuo

The backup goalie is frequent flyer between the AHL and NHL: Kasimir Kaskisuo, who had a rough outing for the Marlies yesterday, but he’ll just be on clipboard duty again. Hutchinson will get the start to follow up his shutout performance against the popgun Canucks offence.

Nashville Predators

Forward Lines

Ryan Hartman - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala - Calle Jarnkrok - Craig Smith
Miikka Salomaki - Nick Bonino - Austin Watson
Phillip Di Giuseppe - Frederick Gaudreau - Rocco Grimaldi

Update:

Defence Pairings

Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm - P.K. Subban
Dan Hamhuis - Anthony Bitetto

Goaltenders

Pekka Rinne
Juuse Saros

The Predators are a bit short-staffed at forward right now, as key forwards Filip Forsberg, Kyle Turris, and, er, Colton Sissons are all listed as injured, though the latter played Saturday. Despite these absences, the Preds are pulling out of a spin, having gone 3-0-1 in their last four following a six-game losing streak. They still generally count on their elite defence and quality goaltending (they have the best GA in the league) to cover for their merely good offence, especially with Forsberg and Turris out. Now that I’ve jinxed it, I assume Dan Hamhuis will score on us eight times.

As you’re well aware, the Preds’ top four is the envy of the NHL, with each player being a plausible top-pair defenceman in his own right. On the upside, the Leafs centre depth outclasses the Preds as it stands, so this should be an interesting contrast of strengths between two teams that are both top five quality.

Go Leafs Go!