GDT: Maple Leafs at Rangers (7 p.m., TSN)

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Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images North America

The Toronto Maple Leafs face-off against the New York Rangers in what seems like an impossible home opener—impossible in the sense that we are 3 weeks into the season and all of New York’s games have been on the road thus far. Having started off their season in Europe, New York returns home to their newly renovated arena, the hollowed Madison Square Garden. Their season has started off very poorly, but they had a hard fought win over Winnipeg their last game and are looking to harness some momentum going into their home opener.

New York Rangers 2011/2012 record
Fri Oct 7, 2011, (Stockholm, SE) NYR (2) – LAK (3) OT
Sat Oct 8, 2011 (Stockholm, SE) NYR (1) – ANA (2) SO
Sat Oct 15, 2011 NYR (2) – NYI (4)
Tue Oct 18, 2011 NYR (4) – VAN (0)
Thu Oct 20, 2011 NYR (3) – CGY (2) OT
Sat Oct 22, 2011 NYR (0) – EDM (2)
Mon Oct 24, 2011 NYR (2) – WPG (1)

New York has been leaning on their start goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, and have had a dreadful time trying to generate any offense. At last count, Phil Kessel was only 3 goals behind their entire team in scoring this season. That says a lot about both Kessel’s season and New York’s.

“Sands through the hour-glass”, as the soap opera that is the Toronto Maple Leafs powers along with more fodder today—Jonas Gustavsson suggested in an interview that James Reimer had a concussion which sent the media into a frenzy and the coaching staff into full deflection mode. James Reimer will sit tonight game out and the Leafs have recalled Ben Scrivens up from the Marlies after his 5-0 shutout last night against the Abbotsford Heat.

RT @LeafErikson: Ok, so apparently Burke expects Reimer back Saturday. The IR situation is retroactive to create cap relief. #clearedup

Gustavsson still has a point to prove and if he gets solid play in front of him, this could be a game that gets him his first win of the season and would do wonders for getting his confidence back up. “The Monster” playing decently as the back up goaltender is something that the Leafs need to make the playoffs, it goes without saying.

Following the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 loss against the Flyers, Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild had this to say about Gustavsson:

“He did really well in the first half. The third goal was not good. It was reverting back to the style that doesn’t make him successful. The first have was great, he did everything I hoped he would do. The second period was even better, he was being more dynamic in the crease, he was relying more on his reflexes, he wasn’t over-complicating anything. It was working for him. But that third goal with Hartnell in the slot was rough. Not his fault by any means, I mean a one-timer from the slot is a great scoring chance, but it was how Gustavsson handled the play leading up to it that bothered me.

Still, he had a real good effort and he did what he had to do – gave his team a chance to win. I think he should start on Thursday. No reason to rush Reimer. Give Gustavsson a chance to bounce back.”

Most Leaf fans enjoy Monster’s acrobatic goaltending style, as long as it is tempered with economical positioning and sound play. Tonight is a big test for him to see if he can control his emotions and not let bad goals affect his play thereafter. Waiting patiently in the wings is Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens, who looked excellent in pre-season and had many pinning him as #2 on the depth chart ahead of Gustavsson. It’s only a matter of time before he makes his NHL debut.

Some other very important lineup changes tonight that could and should have been at the very start of this GDT:

(Tiny) Tim Connolly will make his debut for the Maple Leafs. While many wondered if he would be eased into the lineup, it looks as though he will be given full confidence from Ron Wilson et al and will start between the red-hot Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. There are concerns that this may disrupt the chemistry between Kessel and Lupul, but they have been successful regardless of who has been centering the line. They have had almost all centers on the Leafs center them at some stage during this early season and have been a scoring threat every game—save for the game against Boston.

Tyler Bozak has slipped down two spots and will center what looks like Matthew Lombardi and Matt Frattin. This line looks good on paper and should be able to generate a lot chances of they are not matched against top opposition like the top 2 lines do.

Nazem Kadri has been sent down to the Marlies to continue to refine his game and help very competitive Toronto Marlies squad. Matt Frattin may join him once Colby Armstrong returns from injury, but that is unknown at this point.

Starting line-up via LeafsFacts and unconfirmed

Toronto Maple Leafs Line-up vs NY Rangers
Toronto Maple Leafs Line-up vs NY Rangers

And to bide time until puck-drop, here is another new Kesselysnipes video:

And when you finish that, we can all collectively laugh at the horrible Habs: