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MAPLE LEAFS(14-12-7) at PANTHERS (15-14-6)

7:00 pm (SportsNET)

Oh what a difference a year makes. After years of constantly underachieving and generally being the Buffalo Bills of the NHL, the Florida Panthers had the year they were long due last year.

They had a great run and had all the components to become a true competitor for years to come. And then along came Vinny….Dale Tallon, was the architect behind the Chicago Blackhawks and had built up the Florida Panthers and over 1 summer the team’s management has managed to undo almost everything.

Gallant’s curbside firing, Campbell being let go and the still questionable trades of Grudbranson and Lawson Crouse has the team heading back to tire fire territory.

All of this bodes well for the buds. The Leafs are walking into tonight’s game winning their last 2 games and with the number of games in hand, they can use every win they can get.

The Leafs tend to underestimate layup games, so it could be possible that the Leafs lose tonight but with the importance of every win, Babcock is now pressing on the importance of winning and playing smart. After an emotional homecoming for Auston Matthews against Arizona, Matthews and Marner are currently tied for second in the rookie scoring race and 4 points behind Laine. That being said, they also have 4 games in hand, so cue a 4-goal night for Matthews.

The back-up goaltending musical chairs has continued with Bibeau being called back up. There’s a good chance he makes an appearance in these upcoming back-to-back games.

Tonight might not be the battle of two great teams but it is important and every win can help pump the team’s tires leading up to the Centennial Classic.

Projected Line Combinations

Toronto Maple Leafs

van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Hyman — Matthews — Brown
Komarov — Kadri — Nylander
Martin — Gauthier — Soshnikov

Rielly — Zaitsev
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Polak


Florida Panthers

Griffith — Barkov — Jagr
Jokinen — Trocheck — Bjugstad
Marchessault — Malgin — Sceviour
Rau — MacKenzie — Thornton

Yandle — Ekblad
Pysyk — Matheson
Demers —  Kindl


Mike Babcock — Maple Leafs Practice — 12/27/2016

This post first appeared on Leafs Hub, please read the originial post: here

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