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Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

LGD: Michal No-virth

As the NHL season begins to wind down, the remaining games become of increasing significance to fringe playoff teams.  The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers happen to be facing off in a very important game tonight, with only 2 points separating them in the standings.

While both teams have made some questionable lineup choices, one would expect them to tighten up in their decision making, relying on the players that have proven themselves worthy over the course of the season.

Right, Philadelphia?

THE LEAFS

As always, here are the Leafs projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

One thing you may notice here is the absence of Tyler Bozak between Mitch Marner and James van Riemsdyk.  Bozak was not in attendance at this morning’s skate and will be a game-time decision, as per Mike Babcock.

Also notable is the inclusion of Eric Fehr on the Leafs’ fourth line and Brian Boyle’s promotion to the third.  Fehr has not played since his acquisition by the Leafs at the trade deadline.  Don’t get your hopes up yet, though – if Bozak plays tonight, Kadri will likely fall back to the third line, Boyle to the fourth, and Fehr out of the lineup.

THE FLYERS

Here are the Flyers projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

After looking at these lines, I’m guessing your first thought was: Who the heck is Jordan Weal?

Weal is an AHL call-up who has 47 points in 43 games for the Leigh Valley Phantoms this season.  He was brought up by the team on February 11th, and has played 8 games for the Flyers so far this season.  Weal scored his first career NHL goal on February 28th, and since then has tallied an additional goal and an assist.  His advanced numbers have been surprisingly good, and he seems to be fitting in well with Philadelphia.

Jake Voracek currently leads the team in points, scoring 17 goals and tallying 36 assists through 65 games.  The Flyers have had some success with their rookies this season as well, especially considering that Ivan Provorov is currently on the team’s top defence pairing and Travis Konecny sits within the team’s top 6 in scoring.

STARTING GOALIES

Frederik Andersen will be starting in net for the Leafs tonight.  Andersen has a 5-0-0 career record against the Flyers, and though he hasn’t seen many wins over the past few weeks, his numbers have been stable.  His save percentage sits at .924 in his last four games, alongside a 2.25 GAA.  Though 3 of those games were losses (1 in OT), Andersen has performed well and will hopefully continue to play the same tonight.

At the other end, Michal Neuvirth will be taking to the net for the Flyers, as per Sam Carchidi.

Um… I don’t know.

Yes, Neuvirth is the Flyers’ backup goaltender.  The justification for this decision could lie in Neuvirth’s career record against the Leafs (he is 9-4-1 through 16 games, whereas Mason is 4-6-2 through 13 games), or possibly even in that Steve Mason is worn-out after starting four games in a row.  Regardless, it does not make sense to bench the hot goaltender who has come up big for his team in the past few weeks. Mason has a 3-0-1 record in his last four games, tallying a .951 save percentage and a 1.50 GAA.  Ron Hextall, please explain.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

The Flyers have gone 3-1-1 in their last 5 games, and continue to push for a playoff spot with just 17 games left in the season.  The Leafs, on the other hand, are 1-2-2 in their last 5 games and are currently just 2 points ahead of Philadelphia in the standings. Neither team is in a playoff position, but a regulation win tonight would push the Leafs ahead of the New York Islanders and into the last wild card position, provided that the Islanders lose in regulation in their game against the Vancouver Canucks.

In simple terms, tonight’s game is very very very important.

Another less important story line revolves around Valtteri Filppula, as he faces off against the Leafs just a few weeks after rejecting a trade that would have sent him to Toronto alongside Brian Boyle.

Oh, and it’s Morgan Rielly’s birthday.

Tonight’s game will air on Sportsnet Ontario and Sportsnet 360, with a 7:30pm EST start time.

  • Robert

    I’d actually like to see Kadri stick w/16 & 25 even if Bozak can play, I know it won’t happen but I’m bored at work so I feel I can day dream a bit. However, if 42 can’t play & 43/16/25 all have a great game, with multiple points, I wonder if Babs would surprise Leafs Nation and keep them together in the future even when 42 returns?

  • Glen

    Interesting to see the rush by management and media to dismiss Rielly’s gaffs as opposed to Nylander or Marincin. I want the guy to be good also but he needs to do it.

  • jimithy

    Babcock’s comments are childish. Phaneuf’s premature anointment as ‘The Leader’ by the ‘out of touch’ management, as usual illustrated their myopic vision. Rielly is their latest mistake. Babcock’s comments are insulting to the fans who know from experience what a waffle looks like.