Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Off to Sunny California to Face the Los Angeles Kings
We have all waited patiently and now it is time to drop the puck on a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here at the Tip of the Tower we strive to give you as much content on your Toronto sports teams as humanly possible. This series will preview every single Toronto Maple Leafs game and what you should know for the game that night.
The Leafs beat the Kings 4-3 in the shootout earlier this season.
Leafs Injury Report
Kings Injury Report
Tyler Toffoli is out with mono.
Tanner Pearson is out with a broken left fibula.
Robyn Regehr is out with an upper-body injury.
The pressure could not be any higher for Interim Head Coach Peter Horachek and the Leafs, as they try to follow up an impressive 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. They now make their annual trip to the west coast to play teams in California. They begin tonight against the Kings who have been struggling recently, losing three straight games and five of their last six. The Leafs have won four straight games in LA.
The Leafs were dominant in the first period, scoring a season high four goals in the first period against the Blue Jackets – something that could benefit them against the Kings, who have a minus-six goal differential in the opening period. The Leafs will try to stop an LA offence that has lost two important players. Pearson and Tiffoli are out for the foreseeable future, but they still have a deep roster that can strike at any moment.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Dec 11, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) carries the puck against the Los Angeles Kings at Air Canada Centre. The Kings beat the Maple Leafs 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel career vs LA: 8 GP – 4 goals – 4 assists – 8 PTS
James Van Riemsdyk career vs LA: 7 GP – 3 goals – 3 assist – 6 PTS
Tyler Bozak career vs LA: 5 GP – 0 goals – 3 assists – 3 PTS
Dion Phaneuf career vs LA: 24 GP – 5 goal – 8 assists – 13 PTS
Nazem Kadri career vs LA: 3 GP – 0 goals – 3 assists – 3 PTS
Jonathan Bernier career vs LA: 2 GP- Record: 0-1- 3.83 GAA- .849 SV% (did not complete last game against the Kings)
James Reimer career vs LA: 4 GP- Record: 3-0-1, 1.83 GA- .950 SV% (made one relief appearance for Bernier)
Los Angeles Kings
Dec 11, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (8) hits Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (43) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Drew Doughty career vs TOR: 7 GP – 2 goals – 6 assists – 6 PTS
Anze Kopitar career vs TOR: 8 GP- 1 goal- 3 assists- 4 PTS
Jeff Carter career vs TOR: 24 GP- 11 goals- 6 assists- 17 PTS
Marian Gaborik career vs TOR: 20 GP- 14 goals- 10 assists- 24 PTS
Justin Williams career vs TOR: 42 GP- 15 goals- 17 assists- 32 PTS
Jonathan Quick career vs TOR: 5 GP- Record: 2-2-1, 2.74 GAA- .906 SV%
Martin Jones career vs TOR: 1 GP- Record: 1-0 1.00 GAA- .974 SV%
Keys to Victory
With LA struggling defensively to start games, the plan for the Leafs has to be to attack early and try to get a quick lead. They did that the last time they played the Kings by getting a 2-0 lead, but surrendered three unanswered before making a comeback. It will be a big test for the Leafs defence to try and show some consistency.
Horachek has already given Morgan Rielly more ice-time, playing him a career high 24 minutes against the Washington Capitals and close to 22 minutes against the Blue Jackets. We may be seeing Rielly starting to pick up his game and if he continues to play well at both ends of the ice, the Leafs may have a chance to make things interesting in the Eastern Conference. Although he did not play well against the Capitals, it seems like Horachek is able to communicate with the players more effectively than Carlyle, which is going to help Rielly in his development.
Dec 20, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) gets ready moments before the start of their game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Air Canada Centre. The Flyers beat the Maple Leafs 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
It is likely that Bernier gets the start against the Kings and if he does he will have to be ready for the Kings to come out swinging. Another good performance from him will likely earn him more starts down the stretch, but expect the Leafs to get Reimer in as the Leafs have a long road trip ahead of them.
The Kings will play a bruising physical game, but if the Leafs use their speed and avoid getting pummeled in the corners it could give them an advantage. It is unlikely that the Leafs will win the physical battle, so it is best for them to just try and use their speed and skill to create offence.
With the way LA has been playing, it is not wrong to think the Leafs can come away with the victory. However, if Quick is on his game and the Leafs get dominated physically, it could lead to a tough start to the road trip for Toronto.