After snapping a three game skid in Dallas on Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs will look to build their own winning streak against the Florida Panthers this evening. As the Panthers are one of the teams nipping at the heals of both Toronto and Washington, the Leafs would do well to secure a win in regulation and grow their playoff buffer.
The Panthers own a mediocre 15-9-8, and don’t do anything particularly well. While they allow only 2.44 goals against per game (9th best in the league, thanks to Roberto Luongo), Florida has only scored a paltry 68 goal so far this season, better only than the Buffalo Sabres’ 67.
The Leafs are the better team, but they can’t take the Panthers lightly. Florida took three of four games last season against Toronto.
It looked like Leo Komarov was close to returning to the lineup, having been sidelined with a concussion for almost a month, but it appears that won’t happen this evening. Though he’s been cleared to practice, the Leafs placed Komarov on the IR today and recalled goaltender Christopher Gibson from the AHL Marlies.
Gibson, who’s sporting a 2.52 GAA and .919 SV% in 17 games this season, could potentially make his NHL debut sometime soon if one of Jonathan Bernier or James Reimer are banged up. That being said, we don’t know yet which one of the Leafs’ regular goaltenders is injured, but we’ll operate under the assumption that Bernier is ready to go tonight.
— Daily Faceoff (@DailyFaceoff) December 28, 2014
Joffrey Lupul – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
James van Riemsdyk – Nazem Kadri – Mike Santorelli
Richard Panik – Peter Holland – David Clarkson
Daniel Winnik – Trevor Smith – David Booth
Dion Phaneuf – Cody Franson
Jake Gardiner – Roman Polak
Morgan Rielly – Stephane Robidas
Florida has a bunch of several nice pieces sprinkled throughout the lineup, including Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad. They’ve also got some nice depth – a fourth line that includes players like Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall isn’t half bad. It’ll be interesting to see four well-balanced Panthers lines go up against four-well Leafs balanced lines, but ultimately the Leafs have better quality forwards.
Jonathan Huberdeau – Nick Bjugstad – Vincent Trocheck
Sean Bergenheim – Aleksander Barkov – Jimmy Hayes
Jussi Jokinen – Dave Bolland – Brad Boyes
Tomas Kopecky – Derek MacKenzie – Scottie Upshall
Brian Campbell – Aaron Ekblad
Willie Mitchell – Dmitry Kulikov
Erik Gudbranson – Dylan Olsen
What To Watch For
- Which Leafs goaltender is injured? It’d be a disaster if either Bernier or Reimer were injured long term, as Toronto’s trio of goaltending prospects (Gibson, Bibeau and Sparks) have alarmingly little pro hockey experience.
- A packed, rowdy BB&T Center… full of Leafs fans.
- Aaron Ekblad. He’s pretty fantastic.