The Toronto Maple Leafs roll into Carolina tonight for a crucial match up between two teams that are on the playoff bubble.
Making the playoffs is a much more difficult thing to do for the Maple Leafs, who sit six points back going into their 71st game of the season. Toronto must go 10-2-0 to reach 90 points and have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
Starting in goal tonight for the Leafs will be veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has not started a game in quite some time thanks to the outstanding play of rookie James Reimer, who is expected to get the start tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers.
In 31 games this season, Giguere has a record of 11-10-4, a save percentage of .899 and a goals against average of 2.89. Inconsistency has been a big problem for him this season; one night you might see the Air Canada Centre giving him a standing ovation, while the next night all you might see is fans jeering him.
Expect the Leafs to lean on their top two lines again tonight. Four of the six players on their first and second lines─Phil Kessel, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur─have scored at least 20 goals this season.
Joffrey Lupul, another mainstay on the Leafs’ second line, has also been playing well with two goals and two assists in his last five games. Tyler Bozak, meanwhile, has just one point and is a minus-5 in his last five games.
In 18 career games, Kadri has six assists and is a minus-5. He has been the Toronto Marlies’ best forward this season, scoring 17 goals and 24 assists in 44 games. Lashoff, 24, has seven goals and 21 assists in 69 games with the Marlies this season.
The Leafs will be without Colby Armstrong and Colton Orr tonight, both of whom are out for the season. Orr’s concussion is so bad that multiple published reports claim that Orr is contemplating retirement at age 29.
For the Hurricanes, Jame McBain is listed day-to-day with what is being called an upper-body injury.
The ‘Canes currently sit just two points out of a playoff spot after a huge 1-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night. Cam Ward, who is likely to start in goal tonight for Carolina, turned aside 40 shots. In 62 games this season, Ward has a record of 29-23-9, a save percentage of .921 and a GAA of 2.62.
Eric Staal, the team’s captain and leading goal scorer, has just two points in his last five games. Rookie sensation Jeff Skinner is in the exact same deficit.
Tonight’s projected Leafs lineup:
MacArthur – Grabovski – Kulemin
Lupul – Bozak – Kessel
Kadri – Boyce – Crabb
Sjostrom/Rosehill – Brent – Brown
Aulie – Phaneuf
Gunnarsson – Schenn
Lashoff – Komisarek
Giguere – Reimer
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