CALGARY, AB -- After pushing the eventual Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins to the brink in the first round of last year’s playoffs, expectations for the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t taken a step back.
Sporting one of the more intriguing goalie tandems after acquiring Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings this offseason, extending Tyler Bozak and adding the likes of free agent David Clarkson have the Maple Leafs wanting another shot at postseason play.
That combination, as well as the superb play of Phil Kessel, has the Maple Leafs (9-4-0) in first place in both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference as they prepare for the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday (6 p.m. MT, TSN).
Last season: 26-17-5, 57 points (5th in East)
Notable Additions: G Jonathan Bernier, C Dave Bolland, D T.J. Brennan, RW David Clarkson, D Paul Ranger, LW Mason Raymond
Notable Subtractions: RW Matt Frattin, C Mikhail Grabovski, LW Clarke MacArthur, RW Leo Komarov, D Mike Komisarek, G Ben Scrivens
Flames Season Series Record: 0-0-0
Following a four-point rout of the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, Kessel finds himself just two points behind Sidney Crosby for the league lead. In 13 games this season, Kessel has nine goals and nine assists, with seven of those goals coming in his past four games. The Flames have historically slowed Kessel, though, who has just two goals and five points in eight games against the Flames this season.
Fresh off a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench in a pre-season game against the Buffalo Sabres, Clarkson has been ready to go for Toronto. In three games, though, Clarkson has yet to record a point and is minus-1 during that span. Clarkson inked a 7-year, $36.75 million contract with the Maple Leafs this summer.
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK
After recording points in four straight games, van Riemsdyk is now second in team scoring with 12 points in 11 games. The former second overall pick in 2007 has rapidly developed strong chemistry with Kessel early this year. He hasn’t, however, had the most success against Calgary, with just one point -- a goal -- in three career games against the Flames.
Rielly makes his return to Scotiabank Saddledome for the first time since coming as a member of the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. The 19-year-old defenceman has five assists in 11 games this season and was originally credited with his first career NHL goal last night against the Oilers before settling for an assist on Nazem Kadri’s goal.
Up above the 24-minute plateau, Phaneuf leads the Maple Leafs in ice time this season. He’s also a team-best plus-10 through 13 games. Phaneuf also has two goals and seven points to compliment those totals. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound rearguard has been held pointless against the Flames in his career, blanked in four outings.