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Match Preview: Maple Leafs vs. Flames

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs


TEAM UPDATES

T.J. Brennan could make his Leafs debut tonight in Calgary as the Leafs get set to take on the Flames. James Reimer will be in goal after Jonathan Bernier made five consecutive starts.

Brennan was recalled by the Maple Leafs on Thursday after being reacquired by the Leafs prior to the trade deadline. He is expected to slot in for Tim Erixon on the blueline and be relied upon in a power play role.

"T.J. has got a great knack, a good shot, he's very smart, he's a very good power play guy," said Peter Horachek. "Offensively he sees the ice really well. He's going to have that shooting mentality and I think that's a positive thing."

"He's had a taste... he has to defend well and do the rest of the game to maintain and stay in the NHL."

Jonas Hiller will be the man between the pipes for the Calgary Flames who continue to pick up wins despite a season-ending injury to their captain, Mark Giordano. The Flames have not lost a game in regulation since Feb. 27.

Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman have stepped up in the absence of Giordano on their blueline, which also boasts budding star T.J. Brodie.

"Kris has been awesome, even aside from blocking shots, he's really solid and ready to play every single night," said Jonas Hiller of Russell. "No matter who you play or where you play, he's there and he'll battle."

RECENT RESULTS

The Leafs are coming off of a 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night which brings them to 4-5-1 in their last 10 games.

Toronto is 8-21-5 on the road this season.

The Flames come into tonight's game having won four of their last five games and not losing in regulation in the month of March. They are 5-3-2 in their last 10.

Calgary is 18-12-3 at home this year.

LAST MEETING

The Leafs topped the Flames by a 4-1 score in their lone meeting of the season at Air Canada Centre. James van Riemsdyk had the game winner and the Leafs added a pair of empty net goals. Jonathan Bernier made 32 saves for the win over Jonas Hiller.

The Leafs have won the only matchup of the season between the two.

ONE TO WATCH

Mikael Backlund

Backlund hasn't drawn much fanfare on a Calgary team lead by young upstarts like Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau up front, but Backlund has been a positive contributor nonetheless for the club.

The Flames experience a four per cent uptick in shot attempt percentage when he is on the ice and he has had that effect on his team since he entered the League in 2009. While he hasn't put up the traditional stats that some may have hoped for this season, much of that can be attributed to heavy usage in the defensive zone. Backlund starts over 60 per cent of his shifts in the defensive zone.

The top unit featuring Gaudreau, Monahan and Jiri Hudler will cause problems tonight, but Backlund's unit will also create a number of headaches for the Leafs in a support role.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Here's how the Leafs and Flames are expected to line up tonight...

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

19 Lupul - 42 Bozak - 81 Kessel

21 van Riemsdyk - 24 Holland - 18 Panik

47 Komarov - 23 Smith - 20 Booth

15 Lindstrom - 22 Sill - 67 Kozun

Defence

51 Gardiner - 3 Phaneuf

44 Rielly - 2 Brewer

25 Brennan - 57 MacWilliam

Goaltenders

34 Reimer

45 Bernier

Calgary Flames

Forwards

13 Gaudreau - 23 Monahan - 24 Hudler

17 Bouma - 11 Backlund - 19 Jones

21 Raymond - 86 Jooris - 8 Colborne

25 Bollig - 18 Stajan - 79 Ferland

Defence

4 Russell - 6 Wideman

7 Brodie - 29 Engelland

3 Schlemko - 33 Diaz

Goaltenders

1 Hiller

31 Ramo

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