Hey, there’s a game tonight! While all the talk has been focused on the Toronto Maple Leafs (29-28-7) and the replacement of Ron Wilson as coach of the team with Randy Carlyle, the Leafs are in la belle provence tonight to face off against their oldest rival in the Montreal Canadiens (25-30-10). If you have been on vacation or in a coma since February 7th you might not be aware of the fact that the Leafs have gone an ugly 1-9-1 since that day causing them to fall out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. While sitting only five points back of the 8th place Winnipeg Jets with two games in hand, the Leafs are now faced with the familiar obstacle of not only leapfrogging the Jets, but also the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres teams that have overtaken the buds during this ugly slide. A daunting and most likely unclimbable mountain for the buds, management is hoping that Carlyle can somehow kick start this team down the stretch in a last ditch effort to save this season.
The Canadiens have won two straight against the Leafs this season. Both games were at the Air Canada Centre, the last one being an ugly 5-0 loss on a night in which the Leafs honoured former captain Mats Sundin. Toronto had no answer for Carey Price on that night, and the Habs completely exposed a poor James Reimer on the way to routing the buds. Jonas Gustavsson is expected to get the nod tonight in net for the blue and white and with a new coach behind the bench a strong performance from The Monster will go a long way in determining his work load for the remainder of the season.
The game tonight will be tough to gauge as one does not know what (if any) impact Caryle will have on the blue and white. It is imperative that the fragile and tense Leafs team gets off to a good start considering both the Canadiens and their fans would love nothing more than to pile onto the misery that has been the Leafs story as of late. Look for the Leafs to focus more on their own end tonight as they have been completely shredded in the defensive zone during the last stretch.
Lupul – Bozak – Kessel
Frattin – Grabovski – MacArthur
Connolly – Steckel – Kulemin
Crabb – Lombardi – Brown
Gunnarsson – Phaneuf
Liles – Komisarek
Gardiner – Schenn
Cole – Desharnais – Pacioretty
White – Plekanec – Geoffrion
Bourque – Eller – Leblanc
Staubitz – Engqvist – Nokelainen
Gorges – Subban
Kaberle – Campoli
Emelin – Weber
Players to Watch
Leafs: Mike Komisarek – It will be interesting to see if Komisarek can re-establish himself under Caryle. The style of play that Komi plays fits perfectly with what Carlyle expects out of his team. Hopefully he can turn a new page and start fresh for the blue and white in the building where he began his NHL career.
Canadiens: Rene Bourque – Has scored in both games against the Leafs this season as a member of the Habs. The former Flame has size and speed that are difficult to deal with when he’s properly motivated.
Game Time: 7:00 at The Bell Centre. TV – CBC. Radio – AM640.