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Photo Credit: Nick Barden

Leafs hope to keep Alberta hot streak alive tonight in Edmonton

Following back-to-back wins against the Flames in the Saddledome, the Leafs find themselves travelling North for another two-game series at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The two franchises have already matched up twice against each other in this speed run of a season taking a game apiece and will now each be looking to take the season series lead against one another.

Hockey fans everywhere were surprised at just how underwhelming the first two games between Toronto and Edmonton were, especially with two squads that have been built around offensive firepower. That trend should look to break sooner rather than later however as each team has not only shown they can put up goals on command, but have also had growing concerns in net with injuries sidelining the backup goalies while their starters have looked inconsistent. To rub salt in the wounds, the two franchises have each also lost third-string goalies to waivers, an especially troublesome reality as Leafs and Oilers goalies have both put up season save percentages below .900.

For Toronto, the powerplay has been the driving force behind their early-season success. Converting at a staggering 41.7%, they’ll look to build off that trend against an Edmonton penalty kill that is currently ranked 20th in the league. Both teams have had their share of struggles at even strength and in a season that began without proper training camps, every franchise has found themselves learning on the go and trying to work out the kinks as the season plays on.

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It’s still early, but we’re already seeing a bit of a separation between teams in the North division as Toronto, Montreal, and Winnipeg seem to be steadily distancing themselves from the pack. Edmonton will be desperate to show that they aren’t about to waste another year of Connor McDavid and can be expected to play with a near playoff-like intensity as they try to close ground and avoid spending the season playing catchup. For Toronto, the question will be whether they can keep this hot streak that has found them sitting atop the division alive, or if complacency will be what brings the team back down to earth.

Lineups

LW C RW
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 74.6#33 LW

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Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 82.3#6 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

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Rating: 76.6#18 RW

Ilya Mikheyev
ILYA MIKHEYEV

Rating: 74.0#42 LW

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John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 77.6#15 C

William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 76.1#23 RW

Jimmy Vesey
JIMMY VESEY

Rating: 70.6#107 LW

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 70.8#113 C

Wayne Simmonds
WAYNE SIMMONDS

Rating: 70.2#112 RW

Joey Anderson
JOEY ANDERSON

Rating: 70.3#110 LW

Travis Boyd
TRAVIS BOYD

Rating: 70.4#124 C

Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 71.0#98 RW

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY

Rating: 75.3#14 LD

T.J. Brodie
T.J. BRODIE

Rating: 74.2#27 RD

Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 75.1#17 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 72.0#61 RD

Mikko Lehtonen
MIKKO LEHTONEN
Zach Bogosian
ZACH BOGOSIAN

Rating: 71.4#76 RD

LW C RW
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS

Rating: 77.4#11 LW

Connor McDavid
CONNOR MCDAVID

Rating: 82.7#5 C

Jesse Puljujarvi
JESSE PULJUJARVI
Dominik Kahun
DOMINIK KAHUN

Rating: 72.5#69 LW

Leon Draisaitl
LEON DRAISAITL

Rating: 86.1#1 C

Kailer Yamamoto
KAILER YAMAMOTO

Rating: 73.5#47 RW

James Neal
JAMES NEAL

Rating: 71.7#82 LW

Kyle Turris
KYLE TURRIS

Rating: 71.6#99 C

Zack Kassian
ZACK KASSIAN

Rating: 71.2#94 RW

Josh Archibald
JOSH ARCHIBALD

Rating: 71.2#95 LW

Jujhar Khaira
JUJHAR KHAIRA

Rating: 69.1#152 C

Patrick Russell
PATRICK RUSSELL

Rating: 70.0#116 RW

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Darnell Nurse
DARNELL NURSE

Rating: 74.1#30 LD

Ethan Bear
ETHAN BEAR

Rating: 71.8#66 RD

Kris Russell
KRIS RUSSELL

Rating: 70.1#115 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 75.3#21 RD

Caleb Jones
CALEB JONES

Rating: 71.0#14 LD

Adam Larsson
ADAM LARSSON

Rating: 71.1#88 RD

 

Who to watch for the Leafs: Frederik Andersen

In two starts Jack Campbell has shown he has the potential to become the starting goalie if necessary. With Andersen’s recent struggles this has caused a bit of a goalie controversy in Toronto, especially since the Danish netminder currently finds himself in a contract year. Jack Campbell’s recent injury means the team is going to be leaning heavily on Andersen in the next few weeks and he needs to take it as an opportunity to prove the starting netminder job belongs to him. The next week or so could very well determine whether or not Freddie is back in the blue and white next year or if he loses his starting position before the season is even over. Expect him to come up with extra motivation in an attempt to silence the critics.

Who to watch for the Oilers: Jesse Puljujarvi

The often criticized winger has found himself moved up to the first line in an opportunity to prove he belongs in the NHL. It’s already been a hectic week for the 2016 NHL draft class and Puljujarvi undoubtedly is hoping to prove that Winnipeg and Columbus both made a mistake by passing on him. After looking impressive during his time in Finland last year, the former fourth overall pick has yet to score a goal this season. If playing alongside Connor McDavid doesn’t end with him finding the scoresheet, it won’t be long before Edmonton’s management team also gives up on the young forward.

Leafs Starting Goaltender: Frederik Andersen

As mentioned, Andersen is all that stands between the Leafs and the return of Michael Hutchinson. He’ll need to be good as his starter’s job and future earnings depend on it.

Oilers Starting Goaltender: Mikko Koskinen

It will be the ninth straight start for Koskinen and one has to wonder if fatigue is starting to catch up after allowing three or more goals in each of his past three starts. At this moment, the Oilers quite literally do not have a backup plan so Koskinen will be expected to carry the workload in ways that we haven’t seen since the days of Brodeur making 78 starts in a season.

Puck drop is set for 10pm EST on TSN4 and Sportsnet West.