Game Preview #10 - Leaf-Raking Time

John Grieshop

The Jackets are riding a modest two-game winning streak and are starting to right the ship. The Toronto Maple Leafs invade Columbus with a red-hot offense, David Clarkson, and--most likely--several thousand of their friends.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Columbus Blue Jackets

October 25, 2013 - 7:00 pm EDT
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, OH
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Pension Plan Puppets
SBN's Maple Leafs vs Blue Jackets coverage
Tickets

This will be interesting.

The Blue Jackets have won two in a row, perhaps calmed some of the panic (yes, I'm looking at myself in the mirror when I say this) emanating from the fan-base, and are now just one game from the .500 mark yet again. However, winning a game over the Devils is one thing; the Maple Leafs bring an entirely different plane of offense into Nationwide tonight.

Toronto hasn't exactly been struggling to score goals, and they also get forward David Clarkson back from suspension tonight. You may remember Clarkson getting a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench during a fight in the pre-season. Well, his suspension is served, which means he'll be back tonight.

For the Jackets, expect the same lineup from Tuesday, with the possible exception of Jared Boll, who is out of morning skate as of this writing (expect updates later). If Boller can't go, Cody Bass was skating with the fourth line this morning.

The Leafs are on the front end of a back-to-back, and are expected to start Jonathan Bernier in net. For the Jackets, Sergei Bobrovsky will again get the start after a solid outing on Tuesday.

I thought the Jackets played some pretty solid defense on Tuesday at even strength. That said, the Devils aren't exactly known for their offense. The Leafs, on the other hand, bring the funk. They're super-fast, and if we remember the start against Montreal, that can prove tough for the Jackets to get used to at the outset.

The Leafs are top-five in offense overall, and their Power Play is the second best in the league at the moment behind only Washington. And, that's a big area of concern: the Jackets' PK has been, how you say, not so good of late. They've allowed a PPG in five straight games, and are only killing off an awful 68.4% of their penalties over that span. Conversely, the Leafs have scored a PPG in eight of their 10 games thus far, and have scored multiple PPGs in three of those games.

Ugh. I fear this is where this game is going to be won or lost. Toronto has 11 PPGs against 20 EV goals. In other words, they score a HUGE percent of their goals on the Power Play. So, if the Jackets can stay out of the box, and can buckle down on the PK, I like their chances overall. That said, it would include bucking a current trend on the PK for this Jackets team.

Finally, I remember the last time the Leafs came to town in the fall of 2011. Obviously, the score was brutal, but what was also disheartening was the amount of Maple Leafs fans in the building. It's a weekend game, so I expect that again. I would estimate there were six or seven THOUSAND Leafs fans that night. If ever there was a night to #DefendNWA, it's tonight, people.

[Update] - Portzline is reporting that Leafs' wing--and leading goal scorer--Joffrey Lupul has a bone bruise and is questionable for tonight. Every little bit helps (and before anyone chirps, I mean that in the sense of "taking their best goal scorer off the ice" not "man am I glad someone is hurt").

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(4-5-0, 8 Points; 5th division, 11th conference)

Nick Foligno Artem Anisimov Marian Gaborik
Boone Jenner Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Blake Comeau Ryan Johansen R.J. Umberger
Mark Letestu Derek MacKenzie Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin Dalton Prout
Jack Johnson David Savard
Ryan Murray James Wisniewski
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Toronto Maple Leafs
(7-3-0, 14 Points; 2nd division, 3rd conference)

James van Riemsdyk Tyler Bozak Phil Kessel
Mason Raymond Dave Bolland David Clarkson
Jay McClement Nazem Kadri Joffrey Lupul
Troy Bodie Trevor Smith Colton Orr
Carl Gunnarsson Dion Phaneuf
Morgan Rielly Cody Franson
Paul Ranger Jake Gardiner
Jonathan Bernier
James Reimer

Season Series

10/25/13 - Toronto at Columbus
11/25/13 - Columbus at Toronto
03/03/14 - Columbus at Toronto

Head to Head Stats

Toronto Columbus
3.30 (5) GPG 2.44 (21)
2.40 (8) GAPG 2.56 (10)
28.2% (2) PP% 21.2% (12)
86.8% (4) PK% 75.9% (25)
Joffrey Lupul, 6 G leader Marian Gaborik, 4
Cody Franson, 8 A leader James Wisniewski, 6
Phil Kessel, 11 Pts leader Marian Gaborik, 9
Colton Orr, 26 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky, 15
3-1-0 Road/Home 2-2-0
10/22 vs. Anaheim, W 4-2 Last Game 10/22 vs. New Jersey, W 4-1
7-3-0 Last 10 4-5-0
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