For the first time in a long time, the Leafs didn’t play Saturday night, instead shifting their schedule to a Sunday matinee with the Washington Capitals. It’s the Leafs first game back from their California road trip, and the Capitals last game before they visit California (sorry, Washington).
The season series is 1-1 between the teams, but the Leafs won in a shootout, meaning the Capitals lead this season series.
For the Leafs, the flu bug has hit the locker room, with Franson missing last Tuesday’s game, Holland missing Thursday’s game, and Phaneuf being on an IV the last few days with the illness. We don’t know for sure whether or not either will be in the lineup, but Phaneuf at least is considered probable to play. The Leafs should be thankful because they don’t want to go up against Alex the Great without their top defenceman.
Ovechkin has owned the Leafs over his career with 27 goals and 49 points over 32 games against the Buds. And he’s running away with the Rocket Richard trophy this year, already sitting at 45 goals on the season, 11 ahead of Kessel who sits in third place.
The Capitals are desperate for points, sitting three points back of the Flyers for the final wildcard, so if they really want that playoff spot, expect them to come out tough against a Leafs team that’s missing their top goalie and have a sick top defenceman.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS LINEUP
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul – Nazem Kadri – David Clarkson
Mason Raymond – Nikolai Kulemin – Troy Bodie
Carter Ashton – Jay McClement – Colton Orr
Carl Gunnarsson – Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner – Cody Franson
Tim Gleason – Morgan Rielly
We still don’t have confirmation on whether Holland will slot back into the lineup, but he did participate in practice, albeit in an extra player jersey. These lineup combinations were last updated yesterday so if Holland does make his way back, expect one of Ashton or Orr to sit with Holland taking back his spot as the third-line centre. We may also still see Ranger play as a the seventh defenceman. Luckily, the amazing first line is still intact after a few JVR scares, so hopefully him, Kessel and Bozak can continue producing some magical numbers today.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS LINEUP
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Casey Wellman – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Dustin Penner – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Jack Hillen – Mike Green
Dmitri Orlov – Connor Carrick
Kuznetsov just came over from Russia, has played in three games, and had three assists in Friday’s game against the Canucks. He’s still without a goal, so it’s almost a foregone conclusion he gets his first NHL one against the Leafs. It always happens that way.
Reimer is starting for the Leafs in place of the injured Jonathan Berrnier. He played amazing in two periods against the Kings. No confirmation yet on who will be starting for the Capitals, but Jaroslav Halak has started all four games since being traded to them by the Blues, going 2-2.
The game starts at 3pm eastern on Sportsnet Ontario.