The Leafs travel to Philadelphia tonight for their second match-up against the Flyers this season. Three points – and two spots – separate the Leafs and the Flyers with Toronto enjoying the slight edge. For this reason, tonight’s game could have a significant impact on the current look of the Eastern Conference standings. Expect some excitement at 7:00 pm EST when the puck drops.
Here are four factors that could stand in the Leafs’ path to victory:
1) James van Riemsdyk makes his return to Philadelphia tonight after being traded for defenceman Luke Schenn in the off-season. JVR has enjoyed a strong start with the Leafs, leading the team in goals (11) and tied for first in points (15). He also scored a beauty against his former team when they visited Toronto earlier this month. The Boys in Blue & White eventually won that contest 5-2. Can JVR and the Leafs embarrass the Flyers for a second time?
The Leafs ultimately won 4-2, but two penalties by JVR on the same stoppage of play almost cost them the game. Fortunately, the Flyers were only able to score on the first power play opportunity.
2) Speaking of Schenn, there have long been reports of tension between him and former teammate Dion Phaneuf. There were no fireworks between them when the teams first met this season, but with more on the line now, might someone finally explode?
Once again, there were no fireworks. I’m starting to think this issue was overblown.
3) Head coach Randy Carlyle suggested on Sunday that regular starter James Reimer could be ready for tonight’s game, but the young goalie himself refused to offer a definite timeline for his return. Carlyle is notorious for keeping the starter for every game a secret, but media reports suggest Ben Scrivens will get the start. This would mark Scrivens’ eighth consecutive start for the Leafs since Reimer when down with an injury. Does Reimer make an appearance in some form tonight?
Reimer remained on the sidelines while Scrivens made his eighth consecutive start. It wasn’t his best game, but he got the win. Expect some difficult decisions when Reimer finally returns.
4) The Leafs are coming off a tough road loss to the Ottawa Senators. They’ll want to avenge the loss and add to their strong road record against the inconsistent Flyers. They’re also keen to avoid the type of prolonged losing streak that doomed last season’s early playoff hopes. Are they up to the task?
Talk about a big bounce back! Things couldn’t have gone much better for the Leafs.
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