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Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

LGD: Marincin Returns!

Each team coming off big wins on Thursday, Toronto and Carolina will face off tonight in a crucial Eastern Conference matchup.  The Canes have gone 2-2-1 in their last 5 games, and it is unlikely that they will make the playoffs this season.  Anything can happen, though.  On the contrary, the Leafs, currently sitting 1 point out of the playoffs, are within striking distance of the last wild card spot.

Essentially, every game for Toronto from here on out is important.  Period.

THE LEAFS

Here are Toronto’s projected lines, via Daily Faceoff:

Defensive Pairings
Morgan Rielly
Morgan Rielly
Nikita Zaitsev
Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner
Jake Gardiner
Martin Marincin
Martin Marincin
Matt Hunwick
Matt Hunwick
Roman Polak
Roman Polak

After playing only 7 games with the Leafs this season, Alexey Marchenko will likely take to the press box tonight with the return of Martin Marincin.  Marincin was sidelined mid-December with a lower body injury, and is set to hit the ice tonight against the Canes.

Tyler Bozak was a game-time decision for Mike Babcock on Thursday, and ended up playing a fantastic game against the Flyers. Bozak was absent from practice yet again on Friday, but is expected to play tonight.  Injuries have troubled Bozak in the past, but his performance as of late are not indicative of any hidden injuries this season.

THE CANES

Here are Carolina’s projected lines, as per Daily Faceoff:

Defensive Pairings
Jaccob Slavin
Jaccob Slavin
Justin Faulk
Justin Faulk
Noah Hanifin
Noah Hanifin
Brett Pesce
Brett Pesce
Klas Dahlbeck
Klas Dahlbeck
Ryan Murphy
Ryan Murphy

One glance at the Hurricanes roster this season leaves much to be desired.  Somehow, the team has managed to gather 64 points through 64 games, and currently sit 11 points out of the last wild card spot.  Jeff Skinner leads the team in points, tallying 21 goals and 22 assists through 61 games.  Closely behind Skinner lies Finnish rookie Sebastian Aho, who is having a great season for the Canes.

Former Leaf great Jay McClement will be taking to the ice for the Canes tonight as well; McClement has 8 points in 62 games this season.

STARTING GOALTENDERS

Cam Ward will be starting for the Hurricanes tonight.  Ward has tallied a .905 save percentage through 51 games this season, and has started in 5 of the last 9 games for Carolina.  Ward has a winning career record against the Leafs, going 17-11-3 against Toronto through 12 NHL seasons.

After a great performance on Thursday, it would be hard to imagine that Frederik Andersen would sit this one out.  Andersen stopped 36 of 38 shots to lead the team to a win against Philadelphia, and as we learned on Thursday, it’s always a good idea to ride the hot hand when it comes to goaltending.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Leafs currently still sit 1 point out of a playoff spot, and the Canes trail them by 10 points.  Each game, from now until the end of the season, will be important.  This team is one winning streak away from making the playoffs.

With that being said,  the Leafs will need to win this game if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.  A Toronto loss and a New York Islanders win tonight would widen the gap between the Leafs and the playoffs, which is certainly not ideal at this point in the season.  Though Carolina isn’t exactly a playoff contender, any team in the Eastern conference should be viewed as a threat.  Each passing game is of increased importance, and a few more blown third period leads could cost the Leafs a playoff spot.

The game will be broadcasted on CBC, with a start time of 7:00 EST.