Even without playoff implications, there’s always something special about a Senators/Maple Leafs game on a Saturday night. When you add in the magnitude of the two points on the line tonight at the Air Canada Centre, this edition of the Battle of Ontario figures to be one of the most significant in the past few seasons.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the league’s most unpredictable teams during the first half of the season. They get outshot on a regular basis but thanks to some outstanding goaltending from Jonathan Bernier and to a lesser extent James Reimer, the Leafs are sitting pretty in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Or so you may think. While the Leafs hold a six point cushion over the Senators and the rest of the chase pack, they have played a couple more games. If Ottawa can find a way to win in regulation tonight, third place in the Atlantic is suddenly within striking distance.
And while the top three in the division remains a possibility, things are also ridiculously crowded in the battle for last couple wildcard spots. Six teams currently separated by just two points. Ottawa briefly held the second wild card spot but after last night’s games, dropped to 10th.
As you would expect, Paul MacLean prefers to have a little added toughness in his line up against a team like the Leafs. That means Matt Kassian draws into the line up with Stephane Da Costa the odd man out. I understand what the Coach is trying to do here but it’s unfortunate to the lines juggled after a successful outing against Tampa. We’ll see how long he sticks with these combinations. No changes expected to the blueline.
Craig Anderson gets the start in the Ottawa goal. The Leafs will counter with Jonathan Bernier. Puck drop is scheduled for just after 7:00 PM with the game available on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.