MAPLE LEAFS (28-21-13) at KINGS (30-27-6)
10:30 pm (SNO)
Now the real work begins. As in taking the schedule one game at a time, with an eye on playing in the post season. The trade deadline is over and Leafs management have made some moves that may continue to exorcise the demons of the past and postpone tee-off times beyond the second week of April.
The first step is a win tonight when the Toronto Maple Leafs roll into the Staples Center in sunny California.
The Los Angeles Kings are losers of their past two games and are only 3-5-2 over the past ten games. The Kings took a look at the trade market and brought Ben Bishop and Jerome Iginla into the La La Land fold. Goaltending has been an issue for LA with Jonathan Quick only returning to action after a lengthy layoff with injury. In trading for Bishop the Kings now have a 1 and 1A goaltending tandem. Bishop is insurance should Quick go down again.
In joining the Kings lineup, Jarome Iginla is hoping to reignite his scoring touch under his former/new coach Darryl Sutter. Kings management are hoping for the kind of rebound they had back in 2011/2012 season when the team scratched their way into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the west and won the Stanley Cup.
LA sits a single point back of St Louis for that very same eight western conference playoff spot. A very similar situation to their 2012 cup run.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are losers of three in a row and a meager 3-4-3 over their past ten games. Right after the All-Star break the Leafs held as many as eight games in hand and controlled their destiny to make a playoff push. Now, the Leafs players are in a dog fight to hang on to the last eastern conference playoff spot. This could be an exciting final 20 games in 2017.
Trade deadline acquisition Eric Fehr will not be in the lineup tonight but has joined the team in California. This may be another example how Babcock likes to slowly integrate new comers into the lineup. Possibly giving the player a fair chance at adapting to the new team, players, coaches and systems.
These two teams met earlier once this season at the hands of a 7-0 embarrassing loss the Kings laid on the Leafs. Players and coaches have long memories and the Leafs will no doubt use as motivation.
Many online circles are talking about the Leafs struggles since the All-star break. There are two theories making way to water cooler talk. First one is that the rest of the league has figured out the Leafs. So does this means that the Leafs have also had the same opportunity to figure out the rest of the league?
The other is that the veterans are not playing to their potential. Kadri is pointless over the past three games. Tyler Bozak has a mere two assists over the past six games. van Riemsdyk enters tonight contest with a single assist over the past four. The evidence is there for the supposed top three veterans to step up and contribute more. Andersen will need to continue the same solid play he has displayed over the past couple games.
Paul Williams is a contributor to LeafsHub . . . here is what he had to say this afternoon . . .
“Tonight’s game marks a good mental partition for players and fans. It’s now ride or die with this roster. For players, they now know there is no more help coming from outside the organization and a real sense of ownership of their given roles can settle in.”
This is where newcomer Brian Boyle can become a big asset. He solidifies the 4C spot on the roster and with his plethora of playoff experience he can offer the rookies and vets alike a guiding hand in this race to the playoffs.
What do you think Leafs Nation? Discuss among yourselves.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Komarov — Kadri — Brown
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Hyman — Matthews — Nylander
Martin — Boyle — Soshnikov
Gardiner — Zaitzev
Hunwick — Polak
Los Angeles Kings
Iginla — Kopitar — Gaborik
Pearson — Carter — Toffoli
Lewis — Shore — Brown
Kempe — Down — Clifford
Forbort — Doughty
Muzzin — Ladue
McNabb — Martinez
Mike Babcock — Morning Skate — 03/02/2017