The Blue Jackets arrived in Toronto yesterday
, undoubtedly hockey's hotbed and also the breeding ground of immense speculation over the past couple of months. Maple Leafs interim general manager Cliff Fletcher has been rumored to do everything to his roster except put Vesa Toskala at center.
From Columbus' perspective, it offers them another chance
to play an important game in front of a large audience. They played extremely well Friday night in Detroit, a game broadcast on TSN, and won 5-1. Good thing only a couple of metropolitan cities saw Sunday's loss in St. Louis. The Leafs may be near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but they're always a force in the Air Canada Centre.
Coach Ken Hitchcock is expected to ride goaltender Pascal Leclaire indefinitely, and he should see starting duties in the three games that comprise this eastern Canada swing. Leclaire is 1-1-1 in his last three starts, yet didn't get a lot of help from his teammates against the Blues on Sunday.
No word yet regarding C Jiri Novotny
. He's been experiencing shoulder problems over the last week, most likely sustained Wednesday vs. Chicago. My guess is that he'll sit out in Toronto, and likely be back either in Montreal or Ottawa. Sergei Fedorov will remain on the top line alongside Rick Nash and Fredrik Modin, and the Blue Jackets would certainly welcome Fedorov progressing quickly back into game shape. He was marginal on Sunday, but it will take some time for him to get the wheels back on, especially considering he missed a month of action.
The perplexing issue on defense is the return date of Kris Russell
. A healthy scratch the last two games, the pairing of Richard Tarnstrom and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen has played very well in his absence. The kid could use a rest, though. He's played in nearly every game, and may be wearing down late into his first NHL season. Understandable, and not a demotion of any sort. I'd say he plays in Montreal.
The key to tomorrow night's game for the Blue Jackets
is the first ten minutes. Both teams are of a fragile mentality at the moment, and if the Blue Jackets come out with a physical MO, they could jump on the Leafs quickly. If they don't, it could be a long night for the visiting squad.
Also, don't forget about Wednesday's "Fire the Cannon" podcast on Hockeybuzz at 7 pm. Blue Jackets color analyst Danny Gare will join us, and we welcome your calls and emails to either myself or Eric, at [email][email protected][/email]