Toronto Maple Leafs (25-20-5) at Phoenix Coyotes (23-16-9)
|Date & Time||Monday January 20, 2014, 8:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: Phoenix Coyotes -152 / Toronto Maple Leafs +138 --- Over/Under: 5.5
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The Coyotes look to push their winning streak to three games at home on Monday as they host the Maple Leafs who is coming off a spectacular win over the Montreal Canadiens.
The Maple Leafs head to the desert on Monday just two days removed from one of their biggest wins of the season at home against their hated rivals from Montreal in what was Toronto forward Nazem Kadri’s best game of the season. The win was Toronto’s fourth in a row after dropping the same number in their previous four and have now bridged the gap in the Atlantic division sitting just four points back of the Canadiens for third spot and eight back of the Bruins for first. Toronto was all but written off by the ferocious media in the city and around the country after their losing skid after the Winter Classic but they have played their way back into the good graces at least for the time being and now head to the road for a showdown against the Coyotes who are playing much better of late as well. Jonathan Bernier is expected to get the nod in goal for the Buds as he goes up against Mike Smith for Phoenix who will look to play his way into the starter’s role for Team Canada in Sochi.
The Coyotes have won back to back games but are still just 4-5-1 in their last 10 contests as the New Year hasn’t treated them very well and in the competitive Pacific division they can ill afford any more losing streaks if they want to make the playoffs. Phoenix has been a team over the last couple of seasons that never really had the talent to compete in the Western Conference but always somehow found a way to not only get into the playoffs but ousted some of the game’s top teams including the defending Cup champions two years ago in a classic series with the Blackhawks. However, this season it looks as though things have caught up to the Coyotes and while they’re very much still in the hunt for a playoff spot it is clear they aren’t in the same league as the rest of the Pacific powers and to me I think they’ll be on the outside looking in come April. Somehow the Coyotes are big favourites here which is a testament to the fact they’re a stronger home team than on the road but the good teams are supposed to win at home so that isn’t a huge selling point. Toronto is playing the better hockey between these two teams at the moment and with goaltending being a wash I give the edge to the Maple Leafs forwards who are playing with a huge chip right now.