Leafs Back to the Test Tonight In Florida

BY: Jeff Schneberk

The Toronto Maple Leafs took four of four possible points from the Florida-based NHL teams last week. I hope they have thoughts in mind of repeating that stat for this week’s game. The ‘road’ will bring them to Sunrise tonight to play the half-dead Panthers, the St. Pete’s Times Forum on Thursday to take on the Lightning, and will conclude on Saturday night out west when they play Vancouver.

Just about every top player on the Leafs roster played huge during the last three games, which included wins over Florida, Tampa Bay and Ottawa. It was Go Leafs Go all the way and Phil Kessel scored three goals and added an assist Saturday vs Ottawa, Nazem Kadri nearly had the hat trick vs Tampa Bay, and the scoring came from all over the roster last Thursday against Florida. Kadri had three assists in that game as well.
Now, it is Toronto’s turn to do the traveling as they are in the Sunshine State for re-matches with the Bolts and Panthers.

MAPLE LEAFS (30-21-6) at PANTHERS (21-27-7)


Last 10: Toronto 8-1-1; Florida 4-6-0

The interesting part is that with a 10-1-1 record through their past 12 games, the Leafs appear to be in a hot streak just as the Olympic break gets ready. Florida is in the opposite position, currently in a three-game losing skid (they should be playing Detroit tonight haha).
To go along with all of the points that he is racking up, not the least of which includes his 30th goal scored Saturday night vs the Senators, #81 has also been named one of the Stars of the Week in the NHL for January. His numbers include 20 points (seven goals, 13 helpers in 15 games). Not bad.

He also has 31 assists, which is good for tops on the team.

“When you give him chances, he has the ability to find the back of the net,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “He’s a shooter, that’s for sure. There’s always been a lot of them around the League and he’s been classified as [a one-dimensional] player, but we think he has more of an all-around ability. He can distribute the puck, pass it, find people, do a lot more than just shoot.”

Florida on the other hand, sits 14th in the Eastern Conference and 11 points out of a playoff berth. One of the few bright spots for this team is that they have a very experienced goaltender Tim Thomas.

The funny thing is that while only one or two the Leafs biggest players regularly contribute (Kessel and van Riemsdyk), there is another guy who has slowly but surely been making a name for himself, and his name is Kadri. His point totals over three games are three goals and four assists.
He could feast on the Panthers tonight.

A quick glance at the NHL standings shows just how close the Blue and White are to the top of the list…the black and white of the Boston Bruins.

A win tonight put Toronto into one point of the second-place Lightning, to whom Leafs will pay a visit to on Thursday night; a win tonight will put them to within five of the Atlantic-leading Bruins who are sitting pretty right now with 73 points. Toronto also sits two points over Montreal and four points over Detroit.


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