Tonight’s game for the Toronto Maple Leafs will most likely be a compass for their actions before Thursday’s 3pm trading deadline. If the Canadiens leave the Air Canada Centre tonight with a win the Leafs will find themselves ten points behind the Canadiens and most likely all but mathematically eliminated from the Eastern Conference playoff picture. That said this game is also crucial for the Canadiens who trail the seventh place Lightning by just a single point and the sixth place Devils by four points, all the while holding a game at hand on both clubs.
The season series between the Leafs and Canadiens, which is now five games deep, has featured five one-goal games. The last three of the five games have gone to overtime and the winning goal was scored on the power play. The Leafs currently hold the lead in the season series three to two.
It is expected that Cristobal Huet will once again receive the nod from Bob Gainey tonight, no doubt looking to redeem himself from his less then stellar outing in the first two periods of last nights game against the Flyers. That said Huet has not lost a game in regulation in his last nine starts. In goal for the Maple Leafs will most likely be Ed Belfour who has won three straight against the Canadiens but has seriously struggled since early January posting a 3-11-1 record and a GAA of 3.64.
Tomas Plekanec and Francis Bouillon were both injured in last nights game and are both listed as doubtful for tonight’s contest. This will provide an opportunity to earn a spot back in the regular line-up for Mark Streit and Garth Murray or Niklas Sundstrom. The Leafs will no doubt have a line-up change of their own as it is expected that with Eric Lindros out for the remainder of the season right winger Ben Ondrus will get his first NHL action tonight.
1. Mike Ribeiro for the second straight game led the Canadiens in +/- posting a +2 rating on top of potting two goals during the game and the Canadiens only goal in the shootout. Ribeiro was also tied with Mike Komisarek for the team lead in hits with three.
2. Sheldon Souray set a personal best for 9 shots on goal last night leading the Canadiens in that particular category, he also scored his 3rd goal in his last nine games.
3. Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin is currently riding a four game point streak but has only scored once in his last fifteen games.