Toronto Maple Leafs @ Minnesota Wild
7 p.m. on Sportsnet and HNIC — Stream on CBC Gem
Wild site: Hockey Wilderness
It’s a weekend back-to-back in the middle of the continent for the Leafs. Tonight’s game is in Minnesota, where the Leafs will face the Wild who are first in the Central Division.
The Wild, along with the Leafs, are in the top six in the NHL if you use points or points percentage, so the Wild should consider the Leafs a test of their ability. They’ve been winning a lot lately — five in a row — and most recently beat the Devils 5-2, the Coyotes 5-2 and the Lightning 4-2, and before that, the Jets 7-1. This all sounds kind of familiar. The Wild have been accomplishing all this at home, so they will be thinking they can keep on winning tonight.
Their most recent lineup is:
Kirill Kaprizov - Ryan Hartman - Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway - Joel Eriksson Ek - Marcus Foligno
Rem Pitlick - Victor Rask - Kevin Fiala
Brandon Duhaime - Nico Sturm - Nick Bjugstad
Jonas Brodin - Mathew Dumba
Jon Merrill - Alex Goligoski
Jordie Benn - Dmitry Kulikov
Jared Spurgeon is their only notable injury at this time.
Minnesota has successfully transitioned to a younger, more exciting team and is riding to success on the strength of their five-on-five scoring, their defensive execution, and some good possession results.
Their goalies and their special teams are very suspect, however. Cam Talbot has performed like a decent backup, but the problem there is, he seems to be their starter. Kaapo Kahkonen hasn’t been as good as Michael Hutchinson so far this year.
And yet, the Wild keep winning. They’re doing that with the highest five-on-five Goals For per 60 in the NHL and the second highest shooting percentage. This is somewhat legitimate, in that their Expected Goals per 60 is at least mediocre, and they have some genuinely talented shooters. But Marcus Foligno is not likely to shoot at 26% all season.
If the offence is a bit of an illusion in Minnesota, the defence is, unfortunately, all too real. They are fourth in the NHL in Expected Goals Against, and by limiting chances, they make up for a really strange GM decision in net.
The Maple Leafs have a host of injuries, mostly very minor, but it’s throwing the roster into a bit of flux. From various reporters on Twitter we know:
- Joe Woll has had some stiffness, but has practiced
- Woll and Michael Hutchinson are on this road trip
- Ondřej Kaše is on the trip and may rejoin the playing roster
- Morgan Rielly skipped practice after a painful shot block in California
- His X-ray was clear and there’s not a lot of reason to think he won’t play
- Mitch Marner collided with Jake Muzzin at practice, but is not likely to miss the game
- Ilya Mikheyev is also on the trip, but is not yet ready to return/
The Leafs still have some extra forwards on the roster, so none of these problems are unsolvable if someone has to sit out for a game.
Keefe says, Rielly, Kase, Marner and Woll are all game-time decisions tonight.— David Alter (@dalter) December 4, 2021
The lines at practice were:
#Leafs lines at practice Dec. 3/21— David Alter (@dalter) December 3, 2021
Extra: Anderson, Clifford,
Campbell (left early)
Campbell was just doing his normal workout, and is set to be the starter tonight.
Only one team can win, so someone’s run of clowning the other team will end. This game pits strength against strength with the Leafs offence up against the Wild defence. That matchup worked out really well in the recent Boston game, so let’s hope this one goes like that.