Jersey Devils(14-10-3) vs.Toronto Maple Leafs(9-13-5)
7:30 pm (TSN 4)
Tonight the Toronto Maple Leafs will be hosting the New Jersey Devils at the Air Canada Centre. Puck drop will be shortly after 7:30pm.
Leafs players and their faithful hope to carry the momentum gained from Saturday night’s convincing win over a strong St. Louis Blues team. Garret Sparks backstopped his third NHL game as James Reimer is once again shelved with an undisclosed injury. This after returning to the lineup from a short injury absence. Sounds like it re-aggravated knee may be keeping him out of action.
The Devils currently are holding down the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. A spot that Leaf players are looking up at as they have not bought into the tanking for draft position game. Jersey is 4-4-2 in it’s past 10 games and continue to struggle offensively. Defensively the Devils are a strong team with only 66 goals against to date. This is certainly a carry over of Lou Lamoriello’s fingerprints being all over this franchise almost 6 months removed from his former club.
This is Lamoriello’s first contest against the Devils since departing in the summertime for greener pastures with the Maple Leafs. Still a shake your head move for the Leafs to land such a big fish. While there has been no public statement from the Leafs GM regarding his first game against his old club, the impact surely will be greater when the Leafs return visit on Saturday April 9th. It will be interesting to see if Devils management acknowledge Lou’s contributions prior to that game. This happens to coincide in what should be the Leafs final game of the 2015/2016 season.
With Bernier in the AHL on a conditioning stint and starter Reimer injured, both Marlie goalies have been called up to the big club. This could be a historic time for the Leafs as Sparks made his NHL debut Nov. 30, 2015 with a shutout win (a first in Leafs history). Antoine Bibeau was called up after the Reimer injury and has yet to make his NHL debut. A true test of the depth of talent on the farm club has come sooner than Leaf management would have liked. This is an unexpected but excellent opportunity for Lou and company to evaluate where they are in the development plan.
There is no word yet on how long Reimer is out of action. Bernier’s 10 day conditioning stint is due to expire in 3 or 4 days and has 2 shutouts in his 2 starts with the Marlies and has looked steady in net. There is little doubt he will be starting with the big club by the weekend barring injury or sudden re-collapse of his game. Sparks gets the start tonight and is expected to carry the load of games while both goaltenders remain on the injured list.
As mentioned, the Leafs strong effort against St. Louis propelled them to a 4-1 win. In the absence of Lupul’s offence (lasted 22 games) Kadri stepped up with a 2 goal performance and a dustup with the much larger St. Louis captain Backes. This was Kadri living up to his potential and showing real leadership. The one player that has as benefited most from the teachings of the Babcock way is Kadri. He and the rest of the team are reaping the rewards of his hard work.
Both teams are on 1 game win streaks and almost identical records over the past ten games. This is a coin toss as to who will prevail. Will it be Devil players wanting to stick it to Lamoriello? Perhaps the Leafs will repeat their weekend performance and win it for their GM. It will come down to who wants it more.