The Leafs return to action tonight after getting the rare weekend off. They’ll be taking on the New Jersey Devils for the first time this season with home ice advantage going to Toronto. Puck drops at 7:00 pm EST.
Here are four factors that could stand in the Leafs’ path to victory:
1) Who gets the start in net? Projected starter and fan favourite James Reimer made his return to the lineup on Thursday night against the New York Islanders. He earned the win, but he would’ve surely lost if it wasn’t for the heroics of Nazem Kadri. In short, Reimer appears the victim of rust. Meanwhile, Ben Scrivens has done a phenomenal job this season in relief for the often injured Reimer. Scrivens has quickly skated to career-best results at the NHL level: 6-6-0, 2.41 goals against average and .923 save percentage. Only one of the two young goalies can start and I’m glad this tough decisions goes to someone else.
Reimer got the start and there were no signs of rust. He made 28 saves on 30 shots to earn his seventh win of the season in ten games started.
2) Does Matt Frattin make his return to the lineup tonight? Frattin participated in his first full team practice on Sunday since undergoing the surgical knife to repair some minor knee damage. He left the team as its second highest goal scorer behind only James van Riemsdyk. Despite missing the past nine games, he still stands in the top three for most goals on the team: JVR has 12 goals, Kadri has 8 goals and Frattin has 7 goals. The Leafs will surely welcome back Frattin’ goal scoring touch. A decision on his current status should be made by the end of practice today.
In the end, Frattin wasn’t deemed ready to play, but he should be back soon.
3) Can the Leafs win at home? The Leafs are well on their way to exorcising the demons at home. Overcoming a rocky start at the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs briefly pushed their home record to .500 before last Wednesday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Their record now stands at 4-5-0. As I’ve said on many occasions, a decent – if not strong – home record is essential if the Leafs plan to reach the playoffs. Last season is proof enough of this simple hockey law. Thus, it’s absolutely pivotal for the team to continue playing respectable hockey at home.
The Leafs came into the third period trailing 2-1, but three unanswered goals helped them secure the win. They’re back to .500 at home.
4) Is Mike Komisarek finally on the move? Over the weekend, Komisarek submitted a list of team he’d be willing to join via a trade, but the list itself is apparently just a formality. Desperate to play, Komisarek is likely to accept a trade almost anywhere outside the Toronto hockey universe. We’ve seen greater trade activity across the whole league over the past few weeks. It might be time for the Leafs to test the water. I wouldn’t be surprised if John-Michael Liles also becomes available.
Komisarek and Liles remain Leafs. The same cannot be said for Mike Brown, who was sent to Edmonton in a trade that caught many people by surprise. Goodbye Brown, you’ll be missed.
Bonus Question: Randy Carlyle is celebrating his first year anniversary as Toronto’s head coach. We’ve seen a much tougher and more responsible team develop under his guidance. Do the fans show their thanks?
What better way to celebrate such an anniversary? Toronto’s love affair with Carlyle continues!
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