Heavyweights to Battle When Leafs Face Flyers Tonight

Daniel Carcillo vs. Mike Brown or Colton Orr vs. Jody Shelley? Take your pick, because all four are expected to be in the lineup tonight when the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the struggling Philadelphia Flyers.

Tonight’s game will be the first of four between the two. The Maple Leafs lost all but one game last season against the Flyers, including both games in Philadelphia, where they will play tonight.

After starting the 2010-2011 season 4-0-0, the Leafs have lost two straight games. On Monday, the Buds fell 2-1 in overtime to the surprisingly good New York Islanders, followed by a 2-1 regulation loss at the hands of the New York Rangers on Thursday. The Leafs were more than impressive against the Islanders, firing 30 shots at an impressive Dwayne Roloson, but couldn’t find their way against the Rangers.

Tyler Bozak will be trying to rebound tonight after being benched for part of Thursday’s game against the Rangers. Coach Ron Wilson says that his decision to sit the sophomore centre for the majority of the third period was due to the fact that he was not feeling 100 percent after taking a shot in the ear at practice earlier in the week.

Wilson will make a change in the lineup tonight to try to change things up a little, by putting John Mitchell in for the first time this season while taking faceoff specialist Mike Zigomanis out, according to Paul Hendrick of Leafs TV.

Every Maple Leaf forward will look to contribute tonight, as the Leafs have only scored two goals in their last two games. As a team, they scored 15 goals in their first four games. Ten of the Leafs’ 17 goals have come from Clarke MacArthur and Phil Kessel.

“We never went to the front of the net and won a battle,” Wilson said after Thursday’s loss. “You’re not going to score when the other team is going to pack five guys around their goaltender.”

Jean-Sebastien Giguere will get the start tonight for the Leafs. The 33-year-old is 3-0-1 this season with a 1.96 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.

If things go bad, Jonas Gustavsson will be ready to enter. He is 2-1-1 this season and owns a goals against average of 2.52 and a save percentage of .912.

Colton Orr and Mike Brown will be looked to when trying to keep Daniel Carcillo quiet and off the score sheet.

The Flyers, on the other hand, will be trying to snap a three game losing skid in which they have fallen to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks.

Tonight’s players to watch

Toronto – C – Tyler Bozak

Bozak has yet to score a goal this season. The 24-year-old had 27 points in 37 games last season. He will be looking to rebound tonight after being benched for most of the third period on Thursday against the Rangers.

Philadelphia – RW – Danny Briere

Briere has scored four goals in his first six games, but has yet to pick up an assist. The former Sabre has an even plus/minus rating this season.

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @SportsHazeLukas for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas@gacksports.com.

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Toronto Maple Leafs Bottom Six is Extremely Underrated

 

Fredrik Sjostrom has been silent but good this season

So much focus has gone towards the top-six forwards on the Toronto Maple Leafs. So much, in fact, that lost in all of the commotion has been the impressive play of the third and fourth lines.

Consisting of Colby Armstrong, Fredrik Sjostrom, Mike Zigomanis, John Mitchell, Colton Orr, Mike Brown and Tim Brent, there is always an extra specialty forward to stick into the lineup.

Armstrong, 27, is used as an energy player who can put the puck in the net. In six games this season, Armstrong has one goal and is a minus-1. However, in 366-career NHL regular season games, he has scored 79 goals and 100 assists, while going plus-31. The native of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan was known as an impact player during his time in Atlanta, and was even one of the team’s assistant captains.

Sjostrom, meanwhile, is not only a good third/fourth line player, but is also a penalty killing specialist. The 27-year-old is just one point shy of 100 for his career. He is pointless in five games so far this season.

Zigomanis, who has also appeared in all six games this season, has recorded one assist so far and has won 55.9 percent of the faceoffs he’s taken. In seven NHL seasons, the 29-year-old has played for the Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and, of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Mitchell just made the team out of training camp, with the coaching staff choosing him over Luca Caputi, who was more than impressive during training camp. The decision now seems to be the right one based on team success, but he has yet to play this season. Although most fans didn’t see it or think much of it, Mitchell was one of the hardest workers on the Maple Leafs last season.

Orr and Brown can be thrown into the same category as enforcers.

Orr was one of just three players to play in all 82 games for the Leafs last season, scoring a career high four goals, while going minus-4 and accumulating a total of 239 penalty minutes. The 28-year-old was nothing but valuable to the men in blue during the 2009-2010 season.

Brown was acquired from Anaheim during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and was expected to be used as an extra who would be thrown in the lineup when facing division rivals and other threats. However, the 5’11”, 205 pound veteran hasn’t missed a game so far this season and has a plus/minus rating of plus-2. In six games, Brown also has a total of 17 penalty minutes. He’s been using his speed and toughness to impress the Maple Leafs coaching staff and fans.

Finally, Brent, 26, scored two goals in his first two games but has not scored in his last four. Brent isn’t a fighter and has managed to keep his penalty minutes low, with just two through the first six games. Brent has been used in both a shut down and energy roles and has excelled in both areas.

In six games this season, the Maple Leafs are allowing just 2.17 goals against on average. Although goalies Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson, as well as every defenceman deserve credit, the third and fourth lines deserve a large part as well.

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @SportsHazeLukas for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas@gacksports.com.

Maple Leafs Look to Start 4-0 With Win Over Rangers

The Toronto Maple Leafs will go for their fourth straight win tonight against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. If the Maple Leafs win, it will mark the first time they have opened the season with four straight wins in 17 years.

With goals from Clarke MacArthur, Francois Beauchemin and Colton Orr, the Leafs managed to score four times on just 14 shots Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

All but three players, not including goalies, have recorded at least one point in the three games the Leafs have played. MacArthur has been a pleasant surprise for the Buds, scoring four goals and adding one assist in three games. Phil Kessel, the team’s second leading scorer, has accumulated two goals and an assist in three games.

Aside from Kessel, the Maple Leafs’ top line has been struggling to produce. Kris Versteeg has just one goal and one assist so far, while centre Tyler Bozak has just one helper. Coach Ron Wilson will be looking for more production out of the three tonight.

The second line, however, has been far from disappointing. Nikolai Kulemin (one goal, two assists), Mikhail Grabovski (no goals, three assists) and Clarke MacArthur (four goals, one assist) have combined for a total of 11 points through three games. The line has been counted on when a goal is needed and used to inject some life into the team with a good shift.

As far as the bottom-six goes, Tim Brent, Mike Brown and Mike Zigomanis have all impressed in their own ways. Brent has scored twice in three games, while Brown has used his speed and pugnacity effectively. Zigomanis, meanwhile, leads the team in faceoffs, winning 71.4 precent of his draws. All three will play important roles in shutting down Marian Gaborik and company tonight.

A part of Gaborik’s company will be Brandon Dubinsky, who is off to a great start this season. With three goals and an assist in two games, Dubinsky will be key to the Rangers’ success tonight. The 24-year-old scored 20 goals in 69 games last season.

Gaborik has yet to score in two games, while rookie Derek Stepan scored a hat trick in the first game of the season.

Tonight will be New York’s home opener, a game that they have not lost since the 2005-2006 season. They finished with a home record of just 18-17-6 last season.

The Leafs will be without defenceman Brett Lebda tonight due to a shoulder injury, but coach Ron Wilson says that he should be available for Monday’s home game against the Islanders. It is unclear whether enforcer Colton Orr will be in the lineup, since he did not return to Wednesday’s game after being dropped by Pittsburgh’s Deryk Engelland in a fight.

The Rangers could be without Erik Christensen. Chris Drury will make his season debut tonight after breaking his finger.

Tonight’s players to watch

Toronto – LW – Clarke MacArthur

MacArthur has scored four goals and an assist in three games this season and will try to continue scoring at such a rapid pace tonight.

New York – G – Henrik Lundqvist

Lundqvist has been struggling this season, going 1-1-0 in two starts, posting a goals against average of 4.03 and a save percentage of .881.

**Follow Buds In Blue on Twitter @BudsInBlue for frequent blog updates. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking hockey news and rumors, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs game updates. You can contact him at lukas@gacksports.com.

Wayne Primeau Wants Back on the Leafs: Does He Fit In?

Wayne Primeau

35-year-old National Hockey League veteran Wayne Primeau wants to return to the National Hockey League for the 2010-2011 season, which would be his 16th in the League, according to TheFourthPeriod.com (via Toronto Sun).

“I still feel I can play and contribute to a team,” Primeau told the Sun. “Hopefully someone steps forward and gives me a chance.”

“My ultimate wish is to come back to Toronto for another season and be a veteran (presence) to help the younger guys. But it seems to be looking dimmer and dimmer as the days go on.”

With the Maple Leafs becoming a younger team each year and very unlikely to win the Stanley Cup this season, is it really fitting for a 15-year veteran of the League who has never won a Stanley Cup to return to Toronto?

No. The Maple Leafs have too many bottom-six forwards (which Primeau is) for him to fit in on the roster. If he was to play on the wing, he still wouldn’t fit in with the bottom six. Colby Armstrong, Luca Caputi, Colton Orr, Mike Brown and Fredrick Sjostrom all have more important roles with the Maple Leafs, and all add just as much grit, if not more.

At age 35, if Primeau were to return to the Maple Leafs, he would be the oldest player on the roster (current oldest player is Jean-Sebastien Giguere at age 33) and the oldest forward on the roster by seven years.

Not just that, but the signing of Primeau would also take away crucial cap space from general manager Brian Burke, who is currently trying to use that cap space, and possibly Tomas Kaberle, to fill the forward hole in the Maple Leafs lineup.

With that being said, not only would returning to Toronto be a poor career decision by Primeau, but it would also be a poor decision by Maple Leafs manager Brian Burke, who already has enough veterans on the roster.

Primeau has scored just 194 points (69 goals, 125 assists) in 774-career regular-season games. Three of those goals and five of those assists came in 54 games with the Maple Leafs in 2009-2010. He was acquired from the Calgary Flames in July of 2009 along with a 2011 second round draft pick for Anton Stralman, Colin Stuart and a 2012 seventh round draft pick.

**Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas@gacksports.com. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors.