Photo Credit: Twitter / @thesoundtigers
The Toronto Marlies can punch their ticket to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs with one more win against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It’ll be an uphill battle with their opponents playing for their lives, but with home ice advantage just starting to kick in, the team is in a perfect position to deliver the knockout blow.
Toronto’s lines are almost assuredly going to look different tonight, with Nikita Soshnikov and Rinat Valiev coming out of the lineup to make room for Colin Smith and Viktor Loov. The Russian roommates might be out for different reasons; Paul Hendrick is reporting Valiev as a healthy scratch while not saying the same about Soshnikov, who recently came back from an upper body injury.
Smith was long overdue to get into game action, finding himself the odd man out despite scoring 22 points in 23 games after being traded to the organization. The 22-year-old will look to offer some of the offensive punch the Marlies will likely need to comfortably put away the series. Meanwhile, Loov will also draw into his first game of the playoffs. To adjust for these moves, you’ll likely see the line’s shuffle up a bit; Soshnikov’s typical linemates (Frederik Gauthier and Rich Clune) probably aren’t Smith’s best fit, while Loov typically plays with Stuart Percy, who is currently paired with Connor Carrick.
The Sound Tigers
Bridgeport’s lines changed a little bit in Game 2, with a ton of shuffling of the forward lines and a 1-for-1 swap of Kyle Burroughs in place of Parker Wotherspoon on defence. Nothing has surfaced from their camp in regards to lineup changes today, but with their season on the line, expect more adjustments.
Antoine Bibeau will hop back in net for the Marlies tonight, and will do his best to equal or top his performance in Game 1. On that night, he stopped 31 of 32 shots to give himself a 0.969 save percentage and the game’s second-star honours.
Across the rink, former Marlies netminder Christopher Gibson will make his first AHL start in nearly a month after being returned to the Sound Tigers by the New York Islanders. His last three performances have been dominant (27 save shutout, 31 saves on 33 shots, 38 saves on 40 shots), but he wasn’t quite as hot in his NHL efforts in between. The pressure will be on for the 23-year-old as he tries to prove to his old team that he would have been worth keeping.
What To Watch For
Toronto is going to want to make Gibson feel uncomfortable, and fast. If they have to ride high-event hockey for the first period, so be it. Take advantage of the crowd energy; Ricoh doesn’t have too many traditions, but jeering the hell out the opposing goalie in the playoffs has been one for years (somewhere, David Leggio is still angry). If you get him off his game early, this should be a smooth sailing game.
Puck drop for this one is at 7:30 PM. Ricoh Coliseum is nearly sold out at this point; short of a few scattered seats and some standing room spots, you’ll have to act fast if you want to be there tonight. As for watching it away from the rink, it’ll be on Rogers TV, AHL Live ($9.99) or you can listen to it on TSN 1050 or AHL Live (Free Audio).