December 09 2010 11:35AM
Dion's back. Tell a friend.
After missing 16 games with a lacerated leg and cut MCL due to a freak accident against Ottawa, Captain Dion Phaneuf makes his triumphant (?) return to the ACC ice tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers. Because of the Captain's return, Keith Aulie, the only waiver exempt defensive currently on the big club, got sent back down to the Marlies this morning. For those of you hoping it would be Lebda, I'm sorry to say but Burke's not going to waive him until the start of next year's season at the earliest. Something to watch for will be the minutes Dion gets tonight. He was averaging 22:44 a game before going down with the injury, but you'd have to think Wilson holds him back a bit and lets him slowly work himself back up to first pairing time.
The Leafs enter this game on the second night of a back-to-back, but fortunately they only played one period of hockey last night and so should still be fresh and well rested. The Flyers, also playing the second game of a back-to-back, lost to the Sharks in a shootout last night as Mike Richards shot however just outside the goal crease as the clock hit 0.0. What's been lost due to that game's ending was how the Flyers ended up just missing out on a win in the first place. After going up 4-1 with 13 minutes left to play, the Flyers gave up 3 unanswered goals to the Sharks before Richards' near miss. If tonight's game plays out like the last 3 for the Leafs, another third period comeback may be possible. Hopefully it never comes to that and the Leafs get the first goal of the game for the first time in 5 games.
Don't let last night's third period failure loss to the Sharks make you think the Flyers are a team on the ropes tonight however. It turns out, the Sharks just have their number and haven't lost to the Flyers in 11 years. Look at their lineup and the Flyers are loaded on offense; Carter, Richards, Giroux, Hartnell, Briere, JVR, Leino, Zherdev. And they aren't too shabby on the blueline ever with Chris "Elbows" Pronger playing over 22 minutes a night against top opposition and doing it with ease. If Wilson wants to earn his coaching pay, he's got to use the home ice last change advantage tonight to keep Kessel away from Pronger as much as possible. Expect to see the defacto 2nd line matched up against Pronger and therefore not be as flashy as they've been as of late. In net, it's a battle of aged medicres as J.S. Giguere (.893sv%) matched up against Brian Boucher (.882sv%). Expect rubber and twine to be good bed fellows tonight and the goal horn to get some good use.
Here are your starting lineups:
GO LEAFS GO!