Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
Once again, the Toronto Marlies find themselves back in the hot seat, down 2-1 in their series against Albany with two more games before they could so much as bring the series back to Toronto. What’s worse is that they’ve lost one of their most consistent defencemen to injury in Stuart Percy. In his place, however, comes a young man looking to open his first chapter with the Leafs organization.
Percy, as mentioned above, is out after taking a reckless hit from Joseph Blandisi in the overtime period of Game 3. Blandisi cross-checked Percy from behind, sending him head first into the boards. Because it was away from the play, it went unpenalized, and the league has not opted to review it. Percy has a history of concussions and upper-body injuries, but given the tight lips that come with playoff hockey, we can only speculate as to what the injury is.
Many expected David Kolomatis or Andrew Nielson to dress in his place, but Sheldon Keefe and staff have thrown the masses a change up and are expected to look to Travis Dermott as the replacement. Dermott, Toronto’s 34th overall pick in last year’s draft, played 64 regular season and playoff games for the Erie Otters this year and picked up nine goals and 57 points in that span, along with 79 penalty minutes. Dermott is one of Toronto’s top defensive prospects and shares Percy’s strong point of being very intelligent positionally, saving himself from having to make desperation plays.
Beyond that, there’s a possibly that Frederik Gauthier draws out of the lineup tonight in favour of Nikita Soshnikov. As the Russian winger is decidedly not a centre, the Marlies would likely move Ben Smith to the middle to facilitate this.
Not much appears to have changed. Jim O’Brien will likely miss the remainder of the series and Pavel Zacha still isn’t ready to play. Their lines could get shuffling, but seeing as they appeared to hold the fort at even strength last game, I wouldn’t expect much variance.
No changes. The Marlies were happy with Antoine Bibeau’s play, despite his first loss of the year in games against the Devils. Albany has yet to switch away from Scott Wedgewood in these playoffs, and unless the 23-year-old gets tired or stops doing what he’s doing, it’s tough to blame him.
What to Watch For
Will there be any difference in how the Marlies control the slot, on either side of the ice? Jess pointed out that the danger areas are where Toronto needs to focus themselves in this round and I completely agree with her perspective; will the Marlies be more aggressive in that regard tonight? Bringing Soshnikov back in gives them a mobile and bullish player who can carry the puck into tight areas; maybe that plays to their benefit. Dermott is also a bit more aggressive in the slot than Percy is; sometimes to a fault, but as games get more crucial, you have to explore every angle.
Puck Drop is at 7:00 PM.