In the limited viewing he’s done of the Leafs, Predators coach Barry Trotz has been impressed with the speed of the opponent his team will face tonight at Bridgestone Arena.
Fortunately from his perspective, he’s got two of the best defencemen in the league to slow them down.
The Leafs, who have won just once in their past five games, will be looking to gain some November momentum here in the Music City with a lineup missing two of its top forwards, Clarke MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski.
The Preds will attempt to replicate what they did Tuesday night in a 3-1 win over Washington.
While the Leafs aren’t exactly Alex Ovechkin and company, their up-tempo ways this season aren’t lost on Trotz.
“The thing that impresses me the most about the Leafs is their speed,” Trotz said following Thursday’s morning skate. “They are a high risk, high reward type of team but they have a lot of skilled players.
“They are all-in on the attack. It’s really a dangerous animal to defend at times.”
Of course when you have the duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter on your blueline, that task becomes easier. Trotz said he believes both of his players are legitimate Norris Trophy candidates and you can bet they will see a lot of the NHL’s leading scorer, Phil Kessel tonight.
In their last nine games, Weber and Suter are plus-14 and plus-11 respectively and each rank in the top 10 in the league in that category.
“I’ve told them both I think they are going to win the Norris Trophy,” Trotz said. “They’re both special.”
The Leafs have plenty of worries as they begin a hectic three days in four nights stretch. While centre Tim Connolly returns to the lineup, the absence of MacArthur and Grabovski will require some scrambling from coach Ron Wilson.
The Leafs plan to dress seven defencemen and will spot rookie Jake Gardiner with some shifts up front.
“The way Jake skates, and Jake spent a good part of his career as a forward, I could see him taking a few shifts up front,” Wilson said. “(Dressing seven D) also gives me an opportunity to double-shift Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul as well.”
The other obvious concern for the Leafs is in net where Ben Scrivens will be making his fourth consecutive start. Sharp at times, the Leafs will be looking for some stability from the rookie who at least has his goals against average under three (2.92) and save percentage above .900 (.904.)
The game will also mark the return to Nashville — and to the Leafs’ lineup — of defenceman Cody Franson, who will be making just his fifth start.