After getting a bit of fortune from the results of their rivals on Tuesday, the Anaheim Ducks look to get back on the winning track against a Toronto Maple Leafs team recently reinvigorated by the call-ups of several talented youngsters from their AHL affiliate Marlies. History hasn't been kind to the Fowl on the road against the Leafs, who will be looking for just their fourth win in franchise history in Toronto; their last victory there came during the 2008-09 season.
Ducks: Tuesday, 3/22 at Montreal (L 3-4). "All Their Ducks In A Row"
Tuesday's loss in Montreal was not only a missed opportunity against an opponent on the outside of the playoff picture, but a chance to put additional ground between potential first round foe San Jose, as well as gain on division-leading Los Angeles. Thankfully, St. Louis held the Sharks a point back while the Ducks still have a game in hand, and Minnesota kept the Kings within four points, with Anaheim having a game in hand on the Angelenos as well as the final meeting of the regular season in LA to come. Of Anaheim's remaining games, four are and home and six (including tonight) are away, with four (one home and three away) coming against teams either in or battling for a playoff spot. The Ducks are in the playoffs with a point today, or an Arizona loss.
Since losing David Perron to a shoulder injury during the Winnipeg game, as well as needing an offensive jolt on the blue line with the continued absence of Sami Vatanen, Anaheim has recalled Shea Theodore from San Diego. Theodore has put up eight goals with 23 helpers in this 47 AHL games this season, fifth most on the team and second amongst defensemen behind Brandon Montour. The Ducks did get some good news on the recovery front per Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register, with both Vatanen and Chris Stewart rejoining the team for today's morning skate. Stewart, as to be expected while recovering from a broken jaw, is wearing a full face shield. Less good news from Stephens comes word that both Ryan Kesler and Simon Despres have also been sent home from the current road trip with injuries.
The rebuild is on schedule for Toronto, who as expected are at the bottom of the league table near the end of the season. Whether or not they get the first pick, after narrowly missing out last season by the matter of a single ping-pong ball, remains to be seen. The Leafs are currently 30th in the league, but two points back of Edmonton with four fewer games played, while three points back of Vancouver and Winnipeg, though they have a game in hand on the Manitobans. Toronto last selected first overall in the 1985 draft when they selected Wendel Clark; it's the only time the franchise has picked first in an NHL amateur/entry draft.
Reasons abound for optimism for the future though, with the Toronto Marlies having torn through the AHL this season and currently the only team to clinch a playoff spot, going 46-15-5 through their first 66 games. With injuries ravaging the team (Leo Komarov, Brad Boyes, Peter Holland) and being well out of it, it's enabled head coach Mike Babcock to get a look at some of the promising youngsters. In turn, Toronto has gone 4-1-0 in their last five, and with call ups William Nylander (four goals, three assists), Josh Leivo (five goals), Zach Hyman (four goals, one assist), and Nikita Shoshnikov (currently injured, but with two goals and three assists) impressing in their 10+ games, there are plenty of reasons for optimism in the future. The Leafs are also likely to get Tyler Bozak back in the lineup tonight, whose ten goals and 21 assists slot him tied for fourth on the team in scoring with 22-year old defenseman Morgan Rielly. Garret Sparks will get the start in goal.
Two hours before face off we'll have the game thread up, featuring the full Stat Pack, likely with expected lines, and of course your Numbers For Nerds.