MAPLE LEAFS (18-22-9)
7:30 pm (SportsNET)
The last time these two teams met, they managed the rare feat of producing a very entertaining shootout. After Garret Sparks made an outstanding stick save on Lee Stempniak, Tyler Bozak and Mike Cammaleri followed it up with two beautiful goals. Not to be outdone, Nazem Kadri scored the shootout winner with a ridiculous move that left All-Star goaltender Cory Schneider searching for his pride in the corner.
The Devils are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the last wild card spot in the eastern conference, although the Penguins have two games in hand. I can’t decide what outcome is best in this game for Leafs fans. We all hope the Leafs don’t get another point for the rest of the season and Auston Matthews is used to model their new jerseys at the draft in June. At the same time, the Leafs need the Penguins to make the playoffs to get their first round pick from the Phil Kessel trade. The way it stands right now, the Penguins would squeak into the playoffs with a matchup against the Washington Capitals. Best case scenario for the Leafs.
Devils co-leading scorer Mike Cammaleri will miss his second straight game with a hand injury, while defenseman John Moore is expected to return from an injury that has kept him out of the last three games. Devils head coach John Hynes also left open the possibility of backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid getting the nod. Ex-Leaf Lee Stempniak is having himself a season, putting up 15 goals and 38 points through 51 games to tie him for the team lead with Cammaleri. Not bad for a guy who came into training camp on a PTO. Remember when the Leafs traded Alex Steen and Carlo Coliacovo for Stempniak?
Mike Babcock will coach in his 1,000th regular-season NHL after stating that he wants to be “the best coach of his generation,” on Wednesday. My first thought was, isn’t he already? He’s won one cup, been to the finals three times and been the bench boss behind two Canadian Olympic gold medal teams. He’s also about to miss the playoffs for just the second time in his 13 years of coaching in the NHL, although this season that is hardly his fault. When he took the job he had to know that it would take a Christmas miracle for this lineup to make the playoffs and that was not the goal.
James Reimer gets the start again for the Leafs and my theory that they may try to showcase Jonathan Bernier before the deadline is quickly falling apart. Babcock is always going to start the goaltender that he feels give his team the best chance to win, like any good coach should.
Go Leafs. No wait. Go Devils. Can we bring back the tie for this one?
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Peter Holland – Nazem Kadri – Leo Komarov
Michael Grabner – Tyler Bozak – PA Parenteau
Shawn Matthias – Nick Spaling – Daniel Winnik
Joffrey Lupul – Byron Froese – Rich Clune
Matt Hunwick – Morgan Rielly
Dion Phaneuf – Frank Corrado
Jake Gardiner – Roman Polak
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Joseph Blandisi – Adam Henrique – Lee Stempniak
Sergey Kalinin – Travis Zajac – Kyle Palmieri
Reid Boucher – Jacob Josefson – Tyler Kennedy
Bobby Farnham – Stephen Gionta – Jordin Tootoo
Andy Greene – Adam Larsson
Eric Gelinas – David Schlemko
Seth Helgeson – John Moore
Gdiff (5v5) — -10
Gdiff (All) — -18
CF% (5v5) — 49.9
PP% — 15.9
PK% — 80.7
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Gdiff (5v5) — -1
Gdiff (All) — -1
CF% (5v5) — 46.8
PP% — 19.5
PK% — 81.4