The Leafs play the second of back-to-back games tonight against the injury-plagued Sabres. They haven’t played very well in Buffalo from a historical perspective, but recent wins on enemy ice suggest things might finally be changing for the best. Two points against the Sabres would also help better secure the Leafs’ playoff hopes. Here’s hoping for another win when the puck drops at 7:00 pm EST.
Here are four factors that could stand in the Leafs’ path to victory:
1) Joffrey Lupul has been a virtual ball of energy since his return from injury, collecting four points (3 goals, 1 assist) in two games. Lupul has also been very physical throwing his body at every opponent on the ice. However, here he may have gotten himself in some trouble last night with a questionable hit against Victor Hedman. Many fans, including proud citizens of Leafs Nation, weren’t happy with the hit. Will Lupul be disciplined for the hit beyond the two minutes he served in the penalty box last night?
As expected, Lupul was handed a two game suspension. He won’t be available until Monday’s game against the Bruins.
2) Nazem Kadri collected three assists last night and reclaimed the team lead in points (he was previously sharing it with Phil Kessel). Kadri now has 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 30 games. He’s also collected five points (all assists) in his last two games. I think it’s safe to say this kid is legitimate. Does he (once again) make a difference?
Kadri added two goals and one assist to his impressive campaign so far this season. There’s no doubt that this kid is legitimate.
3) For his part, Kessel is riding a five game points streak. He’s collected eight points (4 goals, 4 assists) in those games and now stands at 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) on the season. It never hurts to have two streaking offensive players. Can Kessel keep up the pace?
Kessel notched two assists, extending his points streak and (somewhat) keeping pace with Kadri.
4) Conventional wisdom says Ben Scrivens will get the start tonight over James Reimer since the team played yesterday. However, the Leafs under head coach Randy Carlyle are anything but conventional (just look at their blueline). The coaching staff has shown a strong preference for Reimer despite comparable play from the two young goalies. The Leafs also had plenty of rest over the last three days. Thus, Reimer’s win last night makes it easier for Carlyle and company to call upon his services again. Who gets the start?
Reimer got the start and allowed four goals on 32 shots. He also took the team far into the shootout, but once again, a lack of offence and defence from the team in front of him cost Reimer (and the Leafs) the game.
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