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NHL Thursday Night on The Ice: Toronto Maple Leafs Vs. Minnesota Wild
A Goaltender to Remember
A recent roster move sent Leafs’ goaltender Jonathan Bernier down to the AHL after posting a horrendous 0-8-1 record, 3.28 GAA and .888 save percentage. After Bernier’s continual struggles and James Reimer dealing with injuries, the Maple Leafs called up rookie Garret Sparks to make his career debut. Sparks shocked the sports world in debut, becoming the first Maple Leaf ever to post a shutout in their first career game. With Reimer set to be back by Thursday and Sparks having a second chance to prove himself on again on Wednesday night (note this article was written before the conclusion of Wednesday night’s game against Winnipeg) the Leafs may finally have solved their goaltending woes.
Minny Maximizing Efficiency
Minnesota may not have the flashiest players, but they do a lot of things well and play an efficient game. The Wild rank 9th in goals per game, 6th in shooting percentage and fourth in percentage of faceoffs won. Forwards Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek and Zach Parise have all played great this season, helping to keep the Wild right in the playoff race in the NHL’s toughest division. The biggest contributor this season may actually be defenseman Ryan Suter. Suter is averaging close to a point a game, ranks right at the top of the league in average ice time per game and is in the conversation for the Norris Trophy (award for the NHL’s best defenseman). Not the splashiest group of players in the league, but they are very efficient at what they do.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Minnesota Wild
The Maple Leafs head down to Minnesota to play the Wild after having played the Winnipeg Jets the night before. The Leafs have played terribly in the second game of a back-to-back this season going 0-4-2. The largest positive for them entering Thursday game is they expect goaltender James Reimer to return from injury. Reimer is 7-3-4 this season with an impressive 2.07 GAA and even more impressive save percentage of 0.927. The Wild are favoured at around -205 tonight while the Leafs sit at a line of +184. The Leafs have had better luck over the last month of the season and 6 of their 8 wins this season came against Western conference teams. With a fresh Reimer between the pipes, they could pull off the upset on Thursday night.
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