The Toronto Marlies are doubtless glad to be back in familiar surroundings after a Royal Winter Fair road-trip of high’s and lows.
Toronto are riding a five game win streak at Ricoh Coliseum, with victories against Utica (2), Manitoba (2) and an overtime success over the Providence Bruins.
It’ll be the St. John’s Icecaps looking to wreck the Marlies perfect home road during a pair of games this weekend.
The two teams have already met twice in Newfoundland this season, splitting the two game series and the spoils.
The Icecaps are two thirds of the way through a six game road-trip and played in Rochester Friday night.
St. John’s have won two straight, including a shootout success most recently against the Amerks.
This is despite losing a host of offensive talent in Chris Terry, Charles Hudon and Sven Andrighetto – all call-ups to Montreal.
Much of St. John’s success has been garnered by an offense that has netted on 54 occasions in sixteen games and relying on young netminder Charles Lindgren, to hold the fort.
The rookie goaltender has won eight of his ten starts, is yet to allow more than three goals in a single game and owns a 0.933 save percentage.
With Lindgren having played in Rochester Friday night, it’s likely that Yann Danis will take Saturday night’s start in Toronto.
The veteran goaltender has not excelled thus far in his 13th year as a professional.
No wins in three starts, an ugly looking .0865sv% and allowed four goals against Albany in his last outing on November 12.
Having lost three of their top five points producers, other players have stepped into the fold for St. John’s offensively.
Stefan Matteau has scored five times in his last seven outings, Nikita Scherbak has four points in three games while defenseman Mark Barberio has seven in his last six, including a pair of goals.
One area that the Icecaps have excelled in on the road, is special teams.
Their power play is registering at 28.9% on their travels whilst the penalty kill sits at 88.9%.
To put those statistics in context, they are good for second and third respectively for road teams.
Toronto’s power play through five games on home ice is currently producing at 33.3% and special teams will doubtless be a key feature between two teams who have trouble staying out of the box this season.
The Toronto Marlies head into this weekend on the back of a week of practise and some rest, after a stretch on the road.
“We are rested and for the most part healthy” said Sheldon Keefe at yesterday’s practise.
This likely mean’s no return for the injured Travis Dermott, who has yet to see action this month.
Otherwise there are some selection headaches for Keefe with the likes of Trevor Moore, Rich Clune, Dmytro Timashov and Marc-Andre Cliché all knocking on his door for more playing time, while Colin Greening and Brooks Laich have not consistently been performing at the level expected of two veterans.
Josh Leivo will play the last game of his conditioning loan on Saturday and it’ll be interesting to see who takes his place on the line with Frederik Gauthier and Kasperi Kapanen.
Antoine Bibeau has been in excellent form, even though he was shelled during the most recent outing in Lehigh. It’s unthinkable that he won’t be given the Saturday start but the attention will shift to who is given the net on Sunday afternoon, with Sparks seemingly not in favour of late.
The key to these pair of games lays with Toronto and if they can hit the ground running after an extended break from game action.
The Icecaps are certainly in full-game mode but have endured a heavy schedule with plenty of travelling to boot this week.
If Toronto are able to get down to business early, then St. John’s may well find themselves running on empty before the weekend is over.
Saturday, November 19 2016
St. John’s at Toronto 5:00pm EST
Sunday, November 20 2016
St. John’s at Toronto 3:00 pm EST