Preview: Maple Leafs at Predators
Michael Hutchinson is slowly endearing himself to the fans of the team for which he cheered while growing up in Barrie, Ontario. Fresh off his first shutout in two years, Hutchinson will get the nod on Monday as the Toronto Maple Leafs complete a four-game homestand against the Nashville Predators.
"It's awesome, it's an amazing feeling, something you grow up thinking about as a kid and for it to actually happen is hard to put words to," the 28-year-old Hutchinson told reporters after turning aside 28 shots in Saturday's 5-0 win versus Vancouver. Auston Matthews scored a goal and set up two others for his 13th multi-point performance of the season and boost his point total to six (one goal, five assists) in his last five outings. While the Maple Leafs snapped a two-game home losing skid, the Predators answered a demoralizing 0-8-2 run away from Music City by going 2-0-1 in their last three road contests following Saturday's 4-1 triumph in Montreal. "That's what you have to do on the road. You can't give teams breathing space," former Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who set up both of Craig Smith's goals to reach 300 assists for his career.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Tennessee (Nashville), TVA, Sportsnet Ontario (Toronto)
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (25-15-3): Smith, who is riding a three-game goal-scoring streak and has points in five straight, has stressed the importance of fast starts as a means to get Nashville off and running. "It's the process in which we enter a game, the way we play, the passion we play on the ice," the 29-year-old Smith told reporters. "The process is more important, but we have to take ownership in how we start games." Smith's 14 goals are tied with the injured Filip Forsberg for top honors on the team.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (27-12-2): John Tavares opened the scoring for the seventh time this season on Saturday, boosting his point total to 14 (eight goals, six assists) in his last nine games. The 28-year-old leads Toronto with 27 goals and sits one shy of 300 for his career, during which he has 10 goals - and five assists - in 12 encounters versus Nashville. Mitch Marner, who has 27 (nine goals, 18 assists) of his club-best 55 points in his last 18 games, had a goal and an assist in the Maple Leafs' 5-2 win over the Predators on March 22.
1. Nashville owns a sterling 6-1-2 mark against Atlantic Division representatives this season while Toronto is 12-4-0 versus Western foes.
2. Maple Leafs D Morgan Rielly has 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 16 games versus Western Conference adversaries.
3. Predators G Pekka Rinne has lost six of nine career decisions (3-4-2) versus Toronto.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs 4, Predators 2