Toronto returns home tonight in the second of back-to-back games to take on the New York Islanders. The game starts at 7:00 pm EST.
Here are four factors that could stand in their path to victory:
1) Joffrey Lupul left yesterday’s game early with a broken forearm. The injury came just days after Lupul signed a five-year contract extension. The veteran winger was a big part of last season’s offence and while he was off to a slow start this season, I’m sure things would have eventually picked-up. He also plays an important leadership role on the team so his presence will be sorely missed in that respect, too. Who steps up in Lupul’s absence?
Matt Frattin was technically called-up to fill the hole on the roster. He played very well, collecting one goal and two assists in his season debut. Frattin was also a healthy +2 on a night in which the Leafs otherwise got spanked. On the other hand, MacArthur was tasked with filling the hole on the first line and here the outcome wasn’t as positive. The first line generated no offence. Both MacArthur and new line mate Tyler Bozak finished -1.
2) For his part, Phil Kessel has been off to a somewhat slow start as well. After collecting two assists in the first game of the season, he hasn’t been able to crack the scorecard since. Kessel and Lupul play well together and it’s arguably the addition of Lupul that saw Kessel increase his year-over-year points total by 18 last season, setting a new career high in the process. How does Kessel perform in the absence of Lupul?
Kessel had an excellent scoring chance late in the third period, but he was kept out of the net by former Marlies forward Keith Aucoin (who, by the way, is having an impressive start to the season after being picked-up off waivers from the Leafs). Although Kessel is bound to score at some point, I would say he looks a bit lost in general whether Lupul is playing alongside him or sitting comfortably in the press box.
3) Two of the Leafs’ hottest players right now are Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk. Kadri has been playing spectacular hockey since the season’s start, amassing two goals and one assist over the first three games of the season. JVR, in contrast, exploded for three points last night (two goals, one assist) – his first three points of the season – against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their strong play will be all the more important in the sudden absence of Lupul and disappearance of Kessel. Can they keep it up?
Kadri continued his hot streak, adding another goal and assist to bring his season points total to five (three goals, two assists). For his part, JVR simply disappeared. He was an unhealthy -2 on the night.
4) It appears that the Leafs may have a (minor) goaltending controversy on their hands. Ben Scrivens started in net for the team’s first two games of the season, playing some decent hockey, but Reimer took over the net last night against the talented Pens. In back-to-back games, it’s common to split the goaltending duties. However, the Leafs might want to capitalize on Reimer’s solid play yesterday. Who gets the start?
Scrivens got the start and while he didn’t play very well (especially after the first period), this loss belongs to the team as a whole more than any one individual player. As head coach Randy Carlyle argued, the Leafs were guilty of mental fatigue after playing the previous day. Hopefully, they put forth a much better effort tonight against New York’s first team, the Rangers.
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