It's been quite a holiday season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pelted with breakfast foods, trapped in a blizzard for three days, making it home just in time to play a rough game against the Hurricanes, and now they get to face the Jackets, coming off a a good come from behind win on Monday night and looking to build on their success.
Of course, the Jackets haven't exactly been world beaters in December, either, and they're still making adjustments, trying to force players like Jake Voracek or Rusty Klesla to play up to their potential by giving a healthy scratch.
With Derek MacKenzie off IR and back in the lineup, the Jackets need these games against the Eastern conference to help them make traction in the traffic jam that is the West - and two points tonight (and hopefully another win against Ottawa on Friday), could potentially ratchet them right back into the playoff picture.
|Game Time: 7:00 pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: 97.1 WFAN
|Blue Jackets vs Maple Leafs coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: Pension Plan Puppets
Keys To The Game:
- Keep Your Head Up - Even when the Leafs have had difficulty scoring this year, guys like Dion Phaneuf, Colton Orr, and Colby Armstrong have never been afraid to level the big hit. This is likely to be a physical game from the get go - the Jackets cannot let themselves get pushed around on the ice. Better to let the Leafs over-commit to the physical play, then take advantage by creating opportunities with the puck.
- Four Kings - Phil Kessel's offense is a major driver for Toronto, but the top line of MacArthur, Grabovski, and Kulemin aren't slouches, either. That said, if you take them away, suddenly the Leafs' scoring drops into the single digits....
- Exposed Defense - From the weak checking line performances of John Mitchell and Brett Lebda to the documented goaltending struggles, the Leafs are incredibly vulnerable in their own zone. There will be opportunities, the Jackets just need to exploit them. Even better, when that happens, the Leafs have a habit of giving up goals in bunches.
It feels like a winnable game here, guys. Regardless of the "should win" vs "must win" arguments, this is the sort of game where the points are in easy reach on the table, if the boys can just leap out and take them.
No word from the team on who will play and who is starting in net, but I'm assuming that Jake and Rusty will be back in tonight, and that Steve Mason will be given the start.
Blue Jackets Information:
|Kristian Huselius||Antoine Vermette||Rick Nash|
|R.J. Umberger||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|Ethan Moreau||Samuel Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Kyle Wilson||Derek MacKenzie||Jared Boll|
|Jan Hejda||Fedor Tyutin|
|Rostislav Klesla||Marc Methot|
|Mike Commodore||Kris Russell|
Toronto Maple Leafs
|Clarke MacArthur||Mikhail Grabovski||Nikolai Kulemin|
|Joey Crabb||Tyler Bozak||Phil Kessel|
|Kris Versteeg||John Mitchell||Colby Armstrong|
|Brett Lebda||Tim Brent||Colton Orr|
|Dion Phaneuf||Francois Beauchemin|
|Luke Schenn||Tomas Kaberle|
|Mike Komisarek||Carl Gunnarsson|
Tidbit: Ten Unthinkable Seconds, One Year Later - a serious (and heartbreaking) look at how Brian Burke continues to deal with the death of his son Brendan, and how he has tried to shoulder the responsibility of helping to make the NHL, and the hockey world in general, more friendly to gay and lesbian athletes.
Say whatever you want about Burke, but the man has the heart of a lion to keep fighting his son's battle despite his grief.