FLYERS (25-21-11) @ MAPLE LEAFS (20-27-9)
7:00 pm (CBC, NHL.TV, CSN-PH)
When Philadelphia hits the ice tonight at the ACC it is with slim hope that a win will put them within striking distance of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. For the Toronto Maple Leafs the game has a different meaning as a loss keeps the team planted in the basement for another day. Another day closer to the trade deadline and 2016 entry draft.
These two teams met once this season when Toronto eeked out a 3-2 win at the Wells Fargo Center. The Leafs have recorded just 3 wins versus 9 losses since then. There will be one more meeting between these two teams after tonight’s game.
This weekends NHL results will likely help Ron Hextall decide if the Flyers will be buyers or sellers on Feb 29th. Sitting 5 points back of the final playoff spot and 24 games remaining on the season and 3 teams to climb over it will be neither an easy task nor easy decision to make a big push for the playoffs. Over the past 10 games Philly is 4-3-3 after dropping a shootout loss to Montreal last night. If the Flyers can put together a 4 game win streak starting tonight then they just may be buyers. Lose tonight and the team can start thinking about next year.
This is Hextall’s second full season as GM of the Flyers. He took over an underperforming overpaid hockey club. Maple Leaf fans would be familiar with this dilemma. 21 months later remaking of the club took a step forward when both Vinnie Lecavalier and Luke Schenn were traded to Los Angeles. This brought Philadelphia about $4.1 million in salary cap relief (before prorating their salaries) and will have about $5.2 million in cap space available to them at the trade deadline. Another factor in determining how hard Hextall wants to push.
The Flyers will be without Weal, Del Zotto and Couturier tonight while they nurse varying ailments. The latter 2 are significant losses for the inconsistent Flyers who could use both players point production on this offensively challenged team. Weal was a part of the Lecavalier trade and has played just 13 games in his rookie season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs could desperately use some injury relief. Add Matt Hunwich to the long infirmary roster bringing to 9 “regulars” currently not able to perform. This of course does not include the disabled Nathan Horton. The Leafs dedicated wing at the Toronto General Hospital is pretty much at maximum capacity.
Yesterday we learned that the Leafs will have to make do without Leo Komarov as he gets set to start his 3 game suspension tonight. The fluid and ever changing Leafs roster has done nothing but assure that Toronto will finish at or near the bottom of the standings. There will be alot of talk over the next 9 days of players moving on via trade. Fans are genuinely excited at finishing low and picking high this year. 49 years without a Stanley Cup will do that to the true blue.
Up until a month ago, Leafs players, fans and media were speculating a possible run in the playoffs due to the excellent play of November and December. Alas that ship has sailed and while many are calling it tanking most fans realize it is more of “the pain” Mike Babcock famously quipped at the beginning of the season.
The Leafs are 3-7-0 over the past 10 games and are the coldest team in the NHL. To those believing in the rebuild, the current state of the Leafs roster is welcome news. Season 1 of the rebuild has just about concluded. By all accounts, Leafs management has stuck to the plan and executed well with some help from the hockey gods.
An unexpected move by coach Babcock, Bernier will be starting tonight after posting a 4-2 loss to the Rangers 2 nights ago. This of course sprouts speculation that Reimer is sitting to prevent injury as trade talks heat up.
Enjoy the game tonight.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Grabner – Kadri – Holland
Greening – Arcobello – Parenteau
Matthias – Spaling – Winnik
Clune – Froese – Boyes
Rielly – Corrado
Gardiner – Polak
Marincin – Loov
Schenn – Gagner – Simmonds
Umberger – Cousins – Voracek
Raffl – Laughton – Read
VandeVelde – Bellemare – White
MacDonald – Gostisbehere
Schultz – Streit
Medvedev – Gudas