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Match Preview: Maple Leafs vs. Panthers

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs


TEAM UPDATES

The Leafs will turn to Jonathan Bernier in goal tonight in their first game following Monday's trade deadline as they take on the Panthers in Sunrise. Three newcomers should be available to the Leafs tonight but it is currently unclear if Eric Brewer, Tim Erixon and Joakim Lindstrom will be able to suit up tonight.

"I think we'll have most of them," said interim coach Peter Horachek. "I think what we'll see is we have to make some decisions. Brewer is not here yet and he's hopefully going to be in this afternoon and we'll decisions. I think our focus is what we're going to do in these games. The new guys are going to step in and get acclimated, get comfortable — hopefully we've done that a bit talking to them — and we've got to play as hard as we can as if it's game one."

Florida has gotten the better of the Leafs this season in two meetings. Roberto Luongo will be the man in goal for the Panthers for the third time this season. It will be the first meeting between the two teams since Jaromir Jagr joined the Panthers prior to the deadline.

The game figures to be another tightly contested game between the two.

"We've seen them a couple of times lately and they're a team that always gives us a good game," said Panthers forward Scottie Upshall. "We're in a spot where every point and every game, every period, every shift is so important. We're excited for that, we're excited to be in that opportunity."

RECENT RESULTS

The Leafs enter Sunday's contest coming off of consecutive 4-0 losses to Montreal and Washington, respectively. The Leafs are 3-6-1 in their last 10.

Toronto is 7-20-5 on the road this season.

The Panthers are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games and have won two games in a row, beating the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning respectively.

Florida is 14-9-6 at home this season.

LAST MEETING

The Panthers took the last meeting between the two teams at Air Canada Centre by a 3-2 score in February. Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel scored for the Leafs but Roberto Luongo turned aside 27 shots to preserve the Panthers win. Jonathan Bernier was on the hook for the loss for the Leafs.

Florida has taken both meetings between the two this season.

ONE TO WATCH

Aleksander Barkov

The 19 year old Finnish centre hasn't put up the offensive numbers some may expect from a second overall selection, but at such a young age with his large frame, Barkov has given the Panthers quality miunutes. He is an above average possession driver for Florida as they have a 2.9 per cent uptick in shot attempts when he's on the ice.

Barkov has found himself on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr since the veteran Czech's arrival from New Jersey, giving the Panthers a nice mix of youth and experience on their second unit.

While his point totals haven't been eye-popping, Barkov plays a mature game for a player his age. He is a defensively responsible player and holds his own through neutral ice. As he continues to gain experience in the NHL, expect him to become more and more of an offensive threat. He is a good complement to Nick Bjugstad down the middle for Florida and gives the Panthers two young, big-bodied options at centre.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Here are tonight's projected lineups for the Maple Leafs and Panthers...

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

21 van Riemsdyk - 42 Bozak - 81 Kessel

19 Lupul - 43 Kadri - 18 Panik

47 Komarov - 24 Holland - 20 Booth

22 Sill - 23 Smith - 67 Kozun

Defence

51 Gardiner - 3 Phaneuf

44 Rielly - 46 Polak

33 Erixon - 12 Robidas

Goaltenders

45 Bernier

34 Reimer

Florida Panthers

Forwards

36 Jokinen - 27 Bjugstad - 24 Boyes

11 Huberdeau - 16 Barkov - 68 Jagr

73 Pirri - 21 Trocheck - 12 Hayes

19 Upshall - 17 MacKenzie - 82 Kopecky

Defence

51 Campbell - 5 Ekblad

7 Kulikov - 44 Gudbranson

3 Kampfer - 72 Petrovic

Goaltenders

1 Luongo

35 Montoya

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