VANCOUVER, B.C – The Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs will play one of the most hotly contested and amped up games in recent Canucks memory. It’s been a dire season for the Canucks, and seeing the Leafs thrive with rookies Auston Mathews and Mitch Marner has left a sour taste with Vancouver hockey fans. When you add in the donnybrook and after the whistle extracurriculars during the Canucks November 5 visit to Toronto. The temperature has been turned up a dial as both teams will hit the ice at Rogers Arena for a game that could have some scores to settle.
Nazem Kadri delivered a questionable hit on Daniel Sedin in the third period with Toronto leading 5-2. Moments earlier, Jannik Hansen was rocked by West Vancouver, and Leafs defender, Morgan Rielly. Matt Martin took liberties into his own hands by going after Canucks rookie, Troy Stecher. Ryan Miller intervened to protect him, and thus ensued another massive kerfuffle.
Fans, media, and pundits across Canada have had Saturday, December 3 circled on their calendar. If you are expecting a line-brawl, and plenty of fisticuffs you could be sorely disappointed. Super pest, Nazem Kadri, was a thorn in the side of the Sedins, and has since made himself known to Edmonton Oilers centre, Connor McDavid.
Kadri could have a target on his back tomorrow, but he wasn’t worried when he held court with the media on Friday.
“I mean, I’ll always prepare,” said Kadri. “I’m not the only guy out there, I have my teammates to help protect me. Like I said, we’re going to be all in it together. Two points is much more important than any revenge in this league and I think both teams are well aware of it.”
The Leafs are focused on picking up two points after dropping a 3-0 decision to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night. Martin might draw the ire of Erik Gudbranson, Alex Burrows, and Ryan Miller, but he won’t be looking for any opposition trouble. NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety, Stéphane Quintal will be in attendance keeping an eye on things.
Martin knows that emotions are still high, and keeping those in check will be the key to getting a big win.
“I’m sure the league will be paying attention to what’s going on tomorrow,” said Martin. “Like I said, games get emotional some times. It was obviously the most emotional game for us of the season. That game is done and over, tomorrow’s a new game. Will approach that one just like any other one.”
If Gudbranson decides to challenge Martin to an early first period fight, that could put to bed any potential trouble. Getting any possible ruckus out of the game early could be the key to letting the game settle into a back and forth contest. If a questionable hit is delivered by either team, or the Leafs, or perhaps the Canucks turn on the red light with regularity. You never know what could transpire on the ice.
The Canucks are also focused on two points, and that includes the vocal Gudbranson.
“We’re going out to win two points,” admitted Gudbranson.” That’s the best way to hurt them and always will be. It was a tough building to play in when we played there. We want to bring that same toughness in our building, and show our fans that we didn’t forget about that night, and bring back two huge points.”
Kadri vows not to change the style of play that has worked for him. He’ll be likely shadowing the Sedins, closely checking them in the corners, and leaving them no time and space. Kadri has respect for the Sedins and all that they’ve accomplished in the NHL. However, that doesn’t change his opinion on the blind-side hit he delivered to Daniel Sedin.
“Like I said, I don’t want to revisit this too much,” admitted Kadri. “Obviously I want to finish my check, and I’m happy the league saw it the same way. By no means do I want to see anybody hurt out there. I know he’s a very valuable player to their team. He’s been in the league for a lot of years, so I respect him a ton.”
Matt Martin has become a fan favourite in his first season with the Maple Leafs. He hits hard, sticks up for his teammates, and plays a solid grinder, and enforcer like role. That’s what you need with a young roster featuring phenom Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander.
Martin again downplayed the matchup with the Canucks as a possible vengeful encounter.
“I don’t really hype it up too much,” revealed Martin. “I think that’s for you guys to do and for fans to get involved with. For me, it’s just a new game. It will run it’s course the way it’s played. Will be ready for it, I guess. Like I said, we’re focused on trying to get a win.”
Whichever team can stay out of the box, capitalize on power plays, and play a strong north and south game will come away with the win. We all know that, but it’s important to note, will both teams actually stick to that game plan? Emotions have been boiling. Vancouver isn’t a Stanley Cup contender, and this will be the biggest game of the season.
Toronto will feel the love as hundreds of fans fill Rogers Arena in blue and white Leafs gear. Finishing a current west coast road trip with a wining record is what Martin would most like to see. It all comes down to the usual two points.
“Yeah, I think tomorrow will be important to keep your emotions in check,” said Martin. “Like I said, two points is the most important thing.”
Toronto goalie, Frederik Andersen missed Friday’s practice with the flu. He will start in net on Saturday. The Canucks will counter with Ryan Miller. Former Canucks defenseman, Frank Corrado will be a healthy scratch for Toronto.