Above is a file photo of Phil Kessel thinking about slacking off at practice, how the IOC plans on refunding New York Islanders season seat holders, and just being the greatest guy ever.
Welcome back! The Olympic break is over and the Leafs are finally back to playing games as they visit the New York Islanders. Are you excited? ARE YOU?!?! Good. K good. I was worried. Good.
Since the lovely Cam Charron is not writing this, I’d like to change the pace up a bit. For those of you dying to know the Corsi aspect of this game: The Leafs are 29th and the Islanders are 23rd. So tonight should be, uh, festive? Festive.
Here are the stats I find necessary.
- Amount of 2014 Olympic medalists appearing in tonight’s Leafs lineup: 0
- Amount of 2014 Olympic medalists appearing in tonight’s Islanders lineup: 0 (John Tavares is hurt)
- Amount of goals Phil Kessel has: 31 (2nd in the NHL)
- Amount of time you should spend reading an article about Kessel having a bad practice: None
LINEUPS (VIA DAILY FACEOFF)
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul – Nazem Kadri – David Clarkson
Troy Bodie – Nikolai Kulemin – Mason Raymond
Frazer McLaren – Jay McClement – Trevor Smith
Carl Gunnarson – Dion Phaneuf
Cody Franson – Jake Gardiner
Tim Gleason – Morgan Rielly
Trevor Smith, who hasn’t played since December 17th due to injury, will step into his first game of 2014 tonight. Before the season began, Smith was named captain of the Toronto Marlies. He scored an impressive four goals and eight assists for 12 points in seven AHL games… And that’s it. He’s been a Leaf ever the vast majority of the time.
This injury update from David Alter is worth noting, as well.
Colton Orr tweaked a previous injury so that is why he left. Carter Ashton is having a bone scan on an injury and they are awaiting results
— David Alter (@DavidAlter590) February 25, 2014
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Thomas Vanek – Brock Nelson – Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner – Josh Bailey – Cal Clutterbuck
Anders Lee – Ryan Strom – Colin McDonald
Mike Halmo – Casey Cizikas – Eric Boulton
Travis Hamonic – Andrew MacDonald
Lubomir Visnovsky – Thomas Hickey
Calvin de Haan – Brian Strait
As you can see, that roster ain’t pretty up front without Tavares or Neilson there. You never know, though. One player’s injury is another player’s opportunity. It’s a chance to earn an NHL paycheque, earn minutes that matter, and contribute in a key role to a team that needs you. Who knows who will step up? You can also pretty much put money on a McLaren-Boulton scrap.
Jonathan Bernier starts in net for the Leafs while Evgeni Nabokov starts for the Islanders. On a Leafs-centric site, you probably don’t need to mention how good Bernier has been. His .927 save percentage is one of the best in the league, and he’s been a huge part of the Leafs’ playoff push this season. On the other hand, Nabokov sits with an awful .908 save percentage. Even more awful is that he’s the best goalie the Islanders have.
Stats are stats and facts are facts, but hockey is hockey. This is a weird game. The teams will probably be rusty. Some players are going to be tired. Some guys are going to be out of shape. Some guys might play the best game of their lives tonight.
It’s anybody’s game, and that’s why they play.