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Marlies Must-Win vs Monsters

Fourth place Marlies battle first place Monsters at Ricoh Coliseum Saturday.

by Clayton Hansler
March 26, 2011

RELATED: Heartbreaking Loss to MonstersGrand Victory vs Griffins | There's No Place Like Home
VIDEO: Mar. 12th vs Monsters | Dallas EakinsTyler Brenner | Ryan Hamilton | Marlies Preview
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TORONTO MARLIES (35-28-1-9) -VS- LAKE ERIE MONSTERS (39-25-3-5)


Fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Toronto Marlies prepare for an all-important match against the Lake Erie Monsters Saturday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum. This may very well prove to be the Marlies most important game of the season to date - not that this is anything new.

Entering into Wednesday's game the Toronto team solemnly reflected on the importance of garnering a victory. A defeat to Grand Rapids would have placed the Marlies four points back of the North division's fourth place team with a select number of games remaining.

"All of the guys were focused," related forward Ryan Hamilton in practice on Friday. "It was a quiet excitement. We knew what we had ahead of us." Hamilton scored two of Toronto's five goals on route to a 5-1 victory to keep the Marlies in the playoff hunt.

Now in a three-way tie with Grand Rapids and Hamilton for the division's third spot, Toronto is left with very little margin for error as they finish off their regular season schedule. With three games still left to be played against the first-place Monsters, Toronto knows it will only be through a team effort that they will get through. And right now, the team looks to be in good shape.

In his first AHL game Tyler Brenner was intent to impress, posting two goals in the third period. On a line with Fabian Brunnstrom, centred by fellow NCAA product Joe Colborne, Brenner's trio has been promoted to Head Coach Dallas Eakins' top offensive combination. Brunnstrom's speed matched with Colborne's hands and Brenner's 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, give the Marlies an offensive triple-threat especially when cycling the puck down low.

Jake Gardiner, acquired from Anaheim in the trade for Francois Beauchemin, registered his first AHL point Wednesday. The smooth skating defenseman is currently paired with Korbinian Holzer, who is a team-leading plus-8 and described by Coach Eakins as one of the Marlies most consistently defensive players. Gardiner's offensive production will only increase as he becomes more and more comfortable at the AHL level.

Backstopping the team will be Ben Scrivens in his 12th consecutive appearance. Scrivens, who has essentially grabbed ahold of the reigns as the Marlies starter since Jussi Rynnas broke his finger in mid-February, has allowed only a single goal against in three of his last four outings, and two or less goals against in seven of his 12 straight starts.

Still at the top of the league with an 86.9% efficiency, the Marlies' penalty kill may very well be tested against Lake Erie on Saturday. The Monsters' powerplay has contributed eight goals over their recent seven-game winning streak, twice used to open the scoring for Lake Erie and once sealing the deal as the game winning goal.

Both John Grahame and Jason Bacashihua have been steady for the Monsters, splitting the duties in goal since the beginning of March. The Lake Erie netminders have only allowed three goals against twice over the course of ten games, an important statistic when eight of those matches were decided by only a single goal.

Although involved in heavily close games, the Monsters defence have not been afraid to assist the forwards, contributing six goals throughout Lake Erie's winning streak. The forwards have contributed an additional 19 tallies of the same period of time, most notably Greg Mauldin who has netted seven of those.

Mauldin's line, which includes Abbotsford born David Van der Gulik and Quebec native Ben Walter, has totalled 12 goals and 33 points over the team's latest winning streak. One can be certain that Marlies Head Coach Eakins will have his shutdown line of Hamilton, Alex Foster and Christian Hanson, focused intently on keeping them away from the net.

Puck drop is scheduled for 3:00pm at Ricoh Coliseum, and will be televised on LeafsTV and broadcast online on AHL Live. Follow the Toronto Marlies, John Bartlett and Chansler on twitter for updates on all the action, and join the game long conversation on the Marlies Facebook page.

Having a problem putting a name to a number? Check out the full Marlies' roster here.


EXPECTED MARLIES LINEUP


STARTING IN GOAL
: #30 Ben Scrivens


FORWARD LINES

Brunnstrom - Colborne - Brenner
Hamilton - Foster - Hanson
Cowan - Caruana - Scott
Engel - Acton - Voros


DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS


Gardiner - Holzer
Mikus - Gysbers
Richmond-Brennan


Notes: The Marlies powerplay has failed to score since March 11th, going 0/21 over five games … Although having not scored a goal in 21 games, Brunnstrom has three points in his last two games … Of the 13 goals the Marlies have scored against the Monsters this season, eight have been earned by players not presently in the active lineup (Nazem Kadri x3, Marcel Mueller x3, Matt Lashoff, Mike Zigomanis) … The Marlies recalled both Dale Mitchell and Will Acton from the Reading Royals … Player to Watch: Ben Scrivens. Scrivens has allowed only five goals on the past 120 shots against.

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