Tonight, the Bruins are in town for their 2nd of 6 games against the Leafs this season and with them they bring a 14-8-2 record back up by amazing goaltending and powerful forwards. So what is Wilson’s plan to counter the Bruins game? Why moving Phil Kessel to second line center of course. You read that right, for the first time in his NHL career and the first time since his days at the University of Minnesota, Phil Kessel will be patrolling the middle of the ice. Word out of the Leafs is that Kessel volunteered to play center and coach Wilson agreed. Normally I’d scoff at such a desperation move, but with the lack of good centers on the Leafs, why not give it a shot.
More after the jump.
Now normally such a move would be the biggest story surrounding this game, and while it plays a part, it’s two potential matchups for Phil at the faceoff dot that are the biggest story tonight. The first being Marc Savard, his former Bruin’s teammate and pivot for Phil’s 36 goal season the year before the trade. Savard will be playing in only his second game of the season after suffering post-concussion syndrom from the Matt Cooke hit. The other big matchup for Phil will be when he lines up across from Tyler Seguin, the player picked with the first of two 1st round draft picks handed over in the Kessel trade. Kessel has struggled mightily against the Bruins since joining the Leafs to the tune of 0 goals, 1 assist, and a -6 rating in 7 games. Ouch.
The Bruins come into this game on a hot streak, winning their last two games by a combined score of 11-1. Milan Lucic, formerly the butt of many overpaid jokes, is playing up to his $4M contract this season and on pace for 70 points. Colton Orr needs to earn his 5 minutes tonight by getting Lucic to go toe to toe. Otherwise, he’s of little use aside from keeping the bench warm. The Leafs come into tonight on a 4 game losing streak, including 2 straight shutouts. With the double-headed goaltending monster Boston has between Rask and Thomas, both streaks could easily get extended tonight.
Here is your Leafs lineup sponsored by Ron Wilson Blend-o-Matic:
Wheeler – Bergeron – Recchi
Ryder – Savard – Seguin
Marchand – Campbell – Thornton
Seidenberg – Boychuk
Stuart – McQuaid