Ilya Samsonov & Vitek Vanecek set for reunion as Leafs finish off five-game roadie in Jersey: Leafs Tailgate
Photo credit:Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Alberga9 months ago
Battered and bruised, the Leafs (38-17-8) will finish off their five-game road trip tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark when they visit the New Jersey Devils (41-15-6).
And they’ll have to do so without both John Tavares and Ryan O’Reilly in the lineup.
Firstly, this is what Sheldon Keefe had to say about the captain after practice on Monday: “John’s just not feeling himself today. Not feeling great. Wanted to skate and see exactly where he’s at and he got through it and is feeling a little bit better than he thought.” Tavares, who took two thundering body checks on Saturday in Vancouver, will not play “out of an abundance of caution.”
Meantime, the prognosis wasn’t as promising on O’Reilly. He has a broken finger and was placed on LTIR. While the Leafs didn’t give a timeline, they did intimate that he’s expected to be back in time for the playoffs.
Got it? Good.
At any rate, Toronto, who’s coming off an ugly 4-1 loss against the Canucks, are 2-2-0 entering the fifth and final game of their road trip. Furthermore, through two outings against New Jersey this season, they’ve tallied three of a possible four points (1-0-1). As for the Devils, they’re coming off a 2-0-1 mini three-game trip to Colorado, Vegas, and Arizona, respectively. New Jersey has notched at least a point in five straight contests (4-0-1).
TIME: 7 PM ET (TSN4)
TOR Ilya Samsonov – LIKELY (22-8-2, 2.39, 0.915, 3 SO)
NJD Vitek Vanecek – LIKELY (27-6-3, 2.50, 0.908, 2 SO)
For the first time since both departing Washington last summer, former tandem mates Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek are expected to go head-to-head tonight in Newark. Very rarely do you see a team move on from two goalies, but that’s exactly what Caps GM Brian MacLellan elected to do last offseason in Washington. He didn’t qualify Samsonov and traded Vanecek. Well, here we are. I can firmly say both goalies have steered their careers back on track this season. They’re both No. 1 ones —not bad, right? As for Capitals, they’re retooling and are likely going to miss the playoffs. Fascinating.
CAN THE LEAFS WEATHER ANOTHER INJURY STORM?
Earlier in the season, it was Toronto’s blue line depth that was put to the rest, I guess now it’s time to see what they’re made of up front. As mentioned, both John Tavares and Ryan O’Reilly won’t play tonight, which means it’s highly probably Sam Lafferty will be Toronto’s second line centre behind Auston Matthews for this one. Without two major pieces up the middle, indisputably, the Leafs will have to put a greater emphasis on team defence, something they were able to do effectively when they were missing all those blue liners a few months back. In the grand scheme of things, this is not the end of world. The big dogs will be there when it matters most. Frankly, I almost prefer this happens now. Let’s see what this team’s made of!
HOW WILL THEY FINSH OFF THE ROAD TRIP?
They’re tired, they’re cranky, and they haven’t been home in over a week. As the Leafs limp to the finish line of this five-game road trip, I can’t help but wonder how much gas they truly have left in the tank. One thing’s for sure: If they play like they did on Saturday in Vancouver, they run the risk of being ran out of the building tonight in Newark. The Devils are a fantastic team, and like Toronto, are riding high after landing Timo Meier at the trade deadline. Simply put, New Jersey’s no joke. Somehow, some way, with a victory tonight, the Leafs can escape this five-game road trip with a winning record (2-2-0).
(As of Noon EDT)
Auston Matthews Anytime Goal
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