Maybe, just maybe, the underperforming Los Angeles Kings are what the doctor ordered for the struggling Maple Leafs.
The Western Conference Kings are coming off an 8-2 road loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, have dropped seven of their past 10 games, are tied for the fewest goals in the league with 69, and are between coaches.
If the faltering Maple Leafs can’t beat these guys, who can they beat?
Toronto, now sitting in eighth spot in the East, will be looking to avoid its second three-game losing streak of the season when it hosts the Kings at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night.
“We’ve lost a couple of games here so we definitely need a win tonight and the boys will be fired up,” rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner said after the team’s morning skate.
In an effort to get back on track, the Leafs have moved Tim Connolly up to centre Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul on the first line and bumped Tyler Bozak back to the third line.
“We need just a little more balance between offence and defence, so I think and hope that Timmy is able to provide that for the first line,” coach Ron Wilson said. “They’re scoring a lot but they’re also giving up a lot of goals and we’ve got to shore that up.”
Faceoff specialist David Steckel will miss his second consecutive game with the flu, but rather than going with seven defencemen like they did against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, the Leafs will most likely dress bruising forward Jay Rosehill on the fourth line.
That leaves Bozak centring Matt Frattin and either Joey Crabb or Colby Armstrong, who will play after taking Sunday’s practice off with a sore ankle.
Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin will be reunited on the second line.
Wilson said after the morning skate that he will utilize Bozak on the penalty kill but also reunite him with Kessel and Lupul for power play time.
“I think Bozie may still go out with those guys on the power play, cause they’ve been pretty effective for a long time now.”
Expect to see James Reimer back in net for the Leafs.
It’s the only meeting between the two teams this season.