The Toronto Maple Leafs head into the cozy confines of the United Center tonight as they prepare to take on the Chicago Blackhawks at 8pm ET.
All the talk following Leafs practice yesterday afternoon was about Leafs head coach Mike Babcock and his decision to FINALLY separate forwards Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov.
Babcock split up the pair during yesterday afternoon’s practice and confirmed to reporters afterwards that the two Leafs pugilists will skate apart when they take on the Blackhawks tonight at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. In fact, it looks like Babcock’s plan is the break up Komarov and Kadri for Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars, as well. But, don’t expect the experiment to last forever. Babcock admitted that he’ll likely pair Komaro and Kadri back together once the Leafs return back home from their brief road trip.
Are we really surprised by this move though? Babcock has shown, if nothing else, that he likes to go with what he knows. The Komarov/Kadri duo hasn’t been particularly effective for the month of January, but it still provides the head coach with a sense of certainty. You know what you’ll get from those two together on a nightly basis… or at least you used to.
So, how do things shake down then? Kadri remains in his current spot as the team’s 2nd line center, while Komarov moves down to a 4th line spot. Sophomore Mitch Marner moves up in the lineup to play alongside Kadri and veteran Patrick Marleau. Interestingly enough Komarov slides into Matt Martin’s spot on the 4th line, who will likely sit in the press box for tonight’s matchup.
Here's how the Leafs' forward lines are expected to look tonight in Chi-town, courtesy of Daily Face-off:
On defence, it's expected that yesterday’s AHL call-up Rinat Valiev, a 22-year-old Russian defenceman, will watch the game from the press box, as well. Rookie Travis Dermott continues to get big minutes in the absence of the injured Morgan Rielly.
In goal it's expected that Frederik Andersen will get the start, but Babcock hasn't made any determination just yet. With a game tomorrow night against the Stars, it wouldn't be a surprise to see backup Curtis McElhinney in goal tonight. If not, he'll certainly make an appearance tomorrow.
Puck drops at 8pm ET, 7pm local time in Chicago!
Go, Leafs, go!