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Grabovski returns to Toronto. Will he make the Leafs pay?

Rick Stewart

Between October 2008 and April 2013, only one other player scored more goals and points with the Toronto Maple Leafs than Mikhail Grabovski.  A fan favorite, many were shocked on July 4th when the Leafs announced plans to buy-out the remaining four years & $21 million of Grabovski's contract.  As expected from any player only one year into a five year deal, Grabovski did not take the news well.  Tonight marks his return to Toronto for the first time as a Cap.  As a Leaf, there were few teams Grabovski had more success against than the Habs, who had previously given up on the center from Belarus.  In fact, Grabovski seemed to revel in playing against his old team, especially in Montreal.  That certainly doesn't bode well for the Leafs tonight.

Speaking of the Leafs, things haven't been going so well as of late. After opening the season 6-1, the Leafs have gone 7-7-1 over their past 15 games.  Jonathan Willis, who I'd highly recommend for a follow on twitter, had a great piece yesterday on the Leafs.  Jonathan makes a strong case that the regression many have been expecting has already happened.  Toronto's production on offense and special teams is sliding in the wrong direction. The one thing holding out has been the other-worldly goaltending from the duo of Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer.  The most pressing issue for the Leafs has been, to no one's surprise, puck possession. The Leafs are getting badly out-shot and out-possessed on a nightly basis, and without the kind of goal production they got last year, they are in trouble.  Randy Carlyle and the coaching staff have made this a priority, but the results have been mixed. With a tough December schedule looming, the Leafs need to bank as many points as possible through the end of this month.

Check out Jasper's Rink for Caps coverage.

Other notes:

  • Tyler Bozak is expected to miss his 12th consecutive game, despite the fact that he was eligible to come off LTIR on Thursday.
  • Phil Kessel is dealing with some sort of injury to his right wrist.  He has played less than 16 minutes in each of the last three games.
  • With Kessel hurt, the Leafs need goals from the rest of the lineup. Clarkson, Lupul, and Kulemin need to find some life on offense. Those three have combined for 4 goals in their last 9 games.
  • Reimer is expected to start after a rough night from Bernier on Thursday. Frazer McLaren and Mark Fraser draw back into the lineup at the expense of Trevor Smith and Morgan Rielly.
JvR - Holland - Kessel
Lupul - Kadri - Clarkson
Raymond - McClement - Kulemin
McLaren - Smithson - Orr

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf
Gardiner - Franson
Fraser - Ranger

Reimer

Johansson - Backstrom - Ovechkin
Fehr - Grabovski - Brouwer
Chimera - Laich - Ward
Volpatti - Latta - Wilson

Alzner - Carlson
Schmidt - Green
Urbom - Strachan

Holtby