100 years ago today was the first time a game was played by this storied franchise. To celebrate the past 100 years and the next, the Maple Leafs are set to take on the Carolina Hurricanes in a rare afternoon showdown.
Once again, the Leafs will be without the services of Auston Matthews who will be missing his fifth consecutive game. Good news however, Matthews has been on the ice the last couple of days and looks to be progressing towards practicing with the team in the near future. The Leafs definitely need him back, as the currently are in the midst of a three-game losing skid. Another injury to the Leafs, this time on defence, is Nikita Zaitsev being placed on IR with a lower body injury. Making his return to the lineup is Connor Carrick, who will see his first action since the Leafs win against the same Hurricanes back on November 24th. Carrick will slide into Zaitsev’s spot on a pairing with Jake Gardiner.
Since the calendar turned to December the Leafs are struggling to do what they do best, score goals. In seven games the Leafs have only 10 goals, which has forced the goaltending and defence to be near perfect to have any success. Especially without Matthews, the offence has seemed to lose their swagger of being a dangerous offence, and this struggle may be something that the team and fans will have to ride out until #34 is back in the lineup.
On the other side, the Carolina Hurricanes have won three straight since coming back from an winless West Coast road trip. Carolina is not the most skilled team offensively, but have a roster full of young players that work hard and are looking to cement themselves in the NHL. These teams have been the types of teams that have found success against the Leafs lately, as Minnesota and Detroit out worked their way to wins against the Leafs.
Player to watch on Carolina:
Just like how the Leafs fell victim to a Staal last Thursday, the only way the Leafs will fall again is to Carolina’s Jordan Staal. The younger brother of Eric, has embraced his role as the go to forward for this young Carolina team. Jordan Staal is still effective offensively, but more importantly Staal sets the tone for his teams play on offence. He leads the forwards for average ice time and is their main guy in all faceoff and special teams play. He also has scored in back to back games coming into this afternoon.
It is a 2pm start and if you are at home, what else is on at 2pm. Regardless this should be a decent game to watch with last meeting having a bit of everything from goals to outstanding saves. Plus with this being a 100 year celebration that should add to the entertainment of the game. 4/5 on the scale.
Komarov – Kadri – Brown
Marleau – Nylander – Hyman
JVR – Bozak – Marner
Martin – Moore – Kapanen
Rielly – Hainsey
Gardiner – Carrick
Borgman – Polak
McGinn – Staal – Williams
Skinner – Ryan – Lindholm
Aho – Rask – Teravainen
Nordstrom – Kruger – Di Giuseppe
Slavin – Pesce
Fluery – Faulk
Hanafin – Van Riemsdyk