Rangers at Leafs Game Preview: A return to normalcy

David Clarkson
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 23: Benoit Pouliot #67 of the New York Rangers checks David Clarkson #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Madison Square Garden on December 23, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With the HBO 24/7 sideshow and the 2014 Winter Classic spectacle now behind them, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to continue a three-game winning streak versus the New York Rangers.

Jonathan Bernier will start his fifth game in a row for the first time in his career, and for the first time for either Leaf goaltender this season. He turned aside 39 of 40 shots against the Rangers in a shootout loss prior to the Christmas break. This has been a convincing stretch from Bernier, one that will be tough to recover from as far as Reimer is concerned.

Randy Carlyle for his part is still at least paying lip service to open competition between the goaltenders:

New acquisition Tim Gleason will not play tonight, which makes sense on a couple of levels. Carlyle is right to stick by the group that has pieced together three straight wins, with Paul Ranger playing some of his better games of the season. Gleason also needs some practice time to gain familiarity with the Carlyle swarm defensive system in particular, which can put the defenceman in some uncomfortable situations in the transition once possession is recovered.

In the last meeting between the two teams, a wide open first period yielded nothing due to good goaltending from Cam Talbot and Jonathan Bernier before the Rangers played the entire second period in the Leaf end, with Bernier holding the game goalless until the third period. The Rangers took the lead off the stick of JT Miller after a defensive zone breakdown by the Leafs before Nazem Kadri poked the puck over the line from underneath Talbot’s pad with a few minutes remaining.

The Leafs have won three in a row since the loss to the Rangers, two in shootout (which now represents a third of their total wins with 7 SO victories), while the Rangers have gone 2-2-0 versus the Capitals (L), Lightning (W), Florida (W) and Pittsburgh (L).