Second line surges – Leafs-Senators Game Day preview

Nik Kulemin is being shopped as trade bait, reports Darren Dreger of TSN.

The longest-tenured Leaf, now in his sixth season with the club has seen an offensive resurgence of late. On January 15 against the Buffalo, coach Randy Carlyle placed him on the team’s second line, on the right side alongside centre Nazem Kadri and left-winger Joffrey Lupul.

The trio has responded in kind, while taking pressure off the top forward unit of JVR-Bozak-Kessel. In the eight games since the switch, Kulemin has 3 goals and 2 assists. Lupul has 2 goals and 5 helpers over that span. And Kadri has been the hottest Leaf of late with 3 goals and 9 assists in that stretch. Five of his points came in Toronto’s two-game mini-sweep this week of Tampa Bay and Florida. “That was probably the best game Nazem has played in a long time, at both ends of the rink,” said Carlyle following Thursday’s 6-3 win versus the Panthers in which Kadri had three assists.

Speaking of the line shuffle, Carlyle said “There’s been a fit with Kulemin. I think he’s a better right-winger, and Lupul’s a better left-winger.” He also called it ‘mind-boggling’, given that both players are on their respective off-wing. “But that’s where they fit, and we played them there last year, and they played very well together. It seems that it has revived a little bit of spark in all three of them.”

Kulemin is three seasons removed from his career high 30-goal campaign of 2010-11 and seems a long shot to approach that figure ever again. But for now the Russian Olympian nicely complements a second line that draws the attention of Leafs opponents.

***

Jonathan Bernier gets the start in net against Ottawa. In his only other appearance versus the Senators, he came on in relief of James Reimer on October 5, making 15 saves in a 5-4 shootout win.

Carter Ashton and Peter Holland are both questionable for tonight’s game, as stated by Carlyle at today’s morning skate. Greg McKegg has been recalled from the Toronto Marlies in the event that neither player is available.


Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

Follow TMLfans.ca on Twitter: @TMLFansRob