By Louis “King of Roncesvalles” Pisano
Toronto has lost both previous games this year by one goal (4-3) on opening night at the ACC and in a shootout at the Bell Centre (5-4) on Halloween.
Both games this year have been physical battles, and tonight should be no different.
Last night, Toronto again outshot their opponents, yet they ran into another hot goalie in Buffalo’s Ryan Miller. The Leafs will most likely face Carey Price, who was the Molson Cup recipient this month for most points with the three star selections.
Price hasn’t been great this year and has a record of 7-9-2, with a .909 save percentage along with a 2.85 goals against average. Through the month of November he has stepped his game up, posting a 5-4-2 record with a .915 save percentage and a 2.48 goals against. Price was in net for the first game between these two teams this year at the ACC.
Montreal should also see the return of their sniper Scott Gomez tonight, who is listed as probable with a lower body injury along with forward Matt D'Agostini. Gomez has one assist against the Leafs this year.
Toronto’s Phil Kessel and rookie Carl “Uzi” Gunnarsson, who were both injured in last night’s game, should be fine and available for tonight's tilt.
Playing back-to-back games, especially with travel as the Leafs are tonight, is a tough spot for any team. This rivalry, though, is enough on its own to boil the blood in the veins for all involved.
Toronto’s Phil Kessel and Nik Hagman have been getting it done on the score sheet for the Leafs lately, but both were held pointless last night, as were all Leafs' players after being shut out by the Sabres.
Kessel was still on the shelf for both previous meetings and should be an added offensive spark. Alexei Ponikarovsky had two goals in their last meeting, and Mikhail Grabovski added three assists, so they might be players to watch for in tonight’s game.
I expect the Leafs to continue to get pucks at the net and hopefully get a body in front of Price and cause some ruckus in the crease area, which hasn’t necessarily been the trend for Toronto.
In the first game at the ACC against the Canadiens, Toronto had many pucks bouncing around in the crease but couldn’t seem to bat them in. Hopefully, tonight some bounces will go Toronto’s way, and they can come away with two points.
In case you didn’t know, starting Dec. 4 Gabe Morency (formerly of The Score ) will be launching his new Web site. Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter, my B/R counterpart, and I will be throwing down our podcast “Get The Puck Out ” every Saturday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The live podcast will be broadcast in studio from Toronto featuring some betting analysis, fantasy advice, trivia, team, player updates, and more puck talk than you can imagine.
Be sure to call in and let your opinion be known. The inaugural show is set for Dec. 12. Don’t miss it, puckheads!
You can catch Morency and “Get The Puck Out” at www.morencysports.com.
The site launches Dec. 5.