The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (16-3-0) versus the Toronto Maple Leafs (10-5-5). SBN Blog: Pension Plan Puppets.
The Time: 7:00 PM ET
The Broadcast: MSGSN
Maple Leafs Down their Best Defenseman
The Toronto Maple Leafs placed Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve due to a left knee injury. However, Sheldon Keefe told reporters that Rielly will not need surgery. Hopefully that bodes well for him, but the Maple Leafs will have to be without him for at least 10 games and 24 games. Victor Mete and Mac Hollowell were called up to shore up the defense in his absence.
The Leafs’ Last Game
The Leafs most recently lost in overtime to the New York Islanders on Monday. Ilya Sorokin stole the game for the Islanders, while Erik Kallgren gave up three goals on 24 shots for the Toronto Maple Leafs. If Toronto uses the same lineup tonight, we can expect:
Bunting - Matthews - Nylander
Kerfoot - Tavares - Marner
Malgin - Kampf - Aston-Reese
Engvall - Holmberg - Jarnkrok
The defense will be reshuffled a bit, as Morgan Rielly did play most of the game on Monday for Toronto. I would expect to see a lot of Mark Giordano tonight, as he led defensemen with 22:40 of ice time (he’s so awesome -at his age!) for Toronto. Giordano was paired mostly with Justin Holl last night, while Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren played together. That just leaves getting a new partner for Jordie Benn, whose ice time I expect to decrease with Rielly out of the lineup. We know that the offensive group for Toronto is top notch, so I do not think Rielly being out of the lineup will inherently limit the danger tonight. Nick Robertson should be returning for the Leafs soon, as well, so he may return to the bottom six for them tonight, giving them a bit of a scoring boost at the expense of their size.
The Devils won their last game against Toronto by really clamping down, defensively. Their structure was impeccable, and the Maple Leafs had plenty of possession time without getting consistently into the scoring areas. I recapped that game here. I was especially impressed with how many shots the Devils blocked, including a late block by Zetterlund where he went into a slide across the blueline. The Devils were incredibly structured, and it let their offensive stars shine when they needed to.
With the Devils going into a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, I expect Vitek Vanecek to get another start tonight, with Akira Schmid probably going on Friday. Vanecek has been central to his last few wins, demoralizing opponents when they get their few scoring chances. He should be facing former teammate Ilya Samsonov tonight, who is 6-2-0 with a .921 save percentage and 2.23 goals against average. It’s a wonder where the Capitals were going wrong with their two young goaltenders, as they seem to be thriving since they have left Peter Laviolette’s squad.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Will you be watching while you cook food for tomorrow? Which Devil are you most thankful for this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.