Toronto Maple Leafs Vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: Gameday
Fresh off their convincing 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks, the Toronto Maple Leafs embark on a trip to Columbus where they will take on the surging Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus enters tonight’s tilt on a hot streak, putting together a two-game winning streak after struggling to start the season.
Entering the game with an impressive 7-3 record, Toronto’s lineup will get a shot in the arm when free agent signing David Clarkson makes his regular season debut. Clarkson enters Toronto’s lineup after serving a ten game suspension for leaving the bench to come to the aid of Phil Kessel in pre-season action against the lowly Buffalo Sabres.
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle has yet to tip his hat as to which line Clarkson will play on, but you can bet whichever line Clarkson flanks, he be ready to play and he will be a difference maker. That said, it has been reported that Clarkson skated on a line with Mason Raymond and Dave Bolland Friday morning, which would be an interesting combination.
The Maple Leafs enter the game ranked fifth overall in goals per game (3.30), eighth overall in goals against per game (2.40), second overall on the power play (28.2% success rate) and fourth overall on the penalty kill (86.8% success rate).
Comparatively, the Blue Jackets have struggled to score goals, averaging just 2.44 goals per game (21st overall) and on the penalty kill (75.9% success rate). That said, Columbus has done a decent job keeping the opposition at bay, allowing just 2.56 goals against per game (12th overall), while putting together a decent power play, humming along at a 21.2 percent success rate (12th overall).
Columbus generates 31.3 shots per game (tenth overall), while giving up 32.6 per game (23rd overall). Given the Blue Jackets ability to generate shots, look for the Maple Leafs to continue to struggle to keep their opponents at bay. Toronto has struggled all season long, giving up an alarming 34.5 shots per game (27th overall).
After a relatively slow start to the season, Maple Leafs’ sniper Phil Kessel exploded for three goals against the Ducks. The trio of Kessel (five goals, 11 points), Joffrey Lupul (six goals, ten points) and James van Riemsdyk (five goals, eight points), has been as dominant as any other trio in the league, which should serve the Leafs well tonight against the Blue Jackets. That said, Lupul is questionable for tonight’s game with a foot injury.
Veteran forward Marian Gaborik leads the Blue Jackets with four goals and nine points, while James Wisniewski leads the BJ’s defensemen with one goal and six assists (seven points).
Between the pipes, Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to get the nod for Columbus. Through eight starts, Bobrovsky has registered a 3-5-0 record to go along with a decent 2.49 goals against and an impressive 0.921 save percentage.
After a solid effort against the Ducks, Jonathan Bernier will continue to get the call between the pipes for the Blue and White, while James Reimer continues to ride the pine.
Toronto will be without the services of Forwards Fraser McClaren (finger) and Nilolai Kulemin (ankle) and defenseman Mark Fraser (knee). Joffrey Lupul is questionable for tonight’s game with a foot injury. The Blue Jackets will be without Nathan Horton (shoulder), Cody Bass (thumb) and Matt Calvert (abdomen).
Fearless Prediction: Despite their ability to generate shots and dominate in the faceoff circle (52.2%, eight overall), the Blue Jackets should be no match for the Maple Leafs.
Toronto’s power play, depth at forward and ability to light the lamp five-on-five, should serve them well against the Blue Jackets. The Maple Leafs will also benefit from the return of David Clarkson.
Look for the Maple Leafs to light the lamp early and often tonight, defeating the Blue Jackets 5-2.