Preview: Maple Leafs at Devils
The Toronto Maple Leafs have answered their third five-game winning streak of the season with a bit of a power outage, as the club has been shut out twice while sustaining losses in three of its last four games. The Maple Leafs bid to locate their offense on Thursday when they visit the Prudential Center to face the New Jersey Devils.
Toronto had little difficulty keeping the scoreboard operator busy in the first two encounters with New Jersey, as John Tavares (team-leading 27 goals) found the net in both a 6-1 home romp on Nov. 9 and a 7-2 rout in Newark (N.J.) on Dec. 18. The 28-year-old Tavares, who resides one goal shy of 300 for his career, recorded 15 points (nine points, six assists) in an 11-game stretch before joining the rest of the team in being blanked in Monday's 4-0 setback versus Nashville. Like the Maple Leafs, the Devils also fell for the third time in four outings after surrendering five goals in the second period of Tuesday's 5-1 loss in Buffalo. Travis Zajac, who scored New Jersey's lone goal in the first meeting with Toronto, set up Blake Coleman's career high-tying 13th tally for his fourth assist during the four-game road trip.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TSN4 (Toronto), MSG-Plus (New Jersey)
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (27-13-2): Forward Zach Hyman participated in practice on Wednesday for the first time since sustaining a groin injury Dec. 18 against New Jersey. The 26-year-old Toronto native skated on a line with Tavares and Mitch Marner, forcing coach Mike Babcock to shuffle William Nylander to a line with Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau while Auston Matthews was reunited with Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. Goaltender Frederik Andersen also attended Wednesday's session and told reporters that he is eyeing a Saturday return from a groin injury that has sidelined him since Dec. 22.
ABOUT THE DEVILS (16-19-7): Reigning Hart Trophy recipient Taylor Hall (club-best 26 assists, 37 points) is likely to be a bystander for the eighth straight game as he deals with a lower-body injury. Kyle Palmieri, who leads the team with 20 goals, resides one point behind Hall despite being held off the scoresheet in four of his last six contests. Former NHL top overall pick Nico Hischier has 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in his last 18 games, including a goal in the blowout loss to Toronto on Dec. 18.
1. Toronto G Michael Hutchinson has posted a 1-2-0 mark with one shutout, a 2.71 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in the last three games.
2. Devils G Keith Kinkaid surrendered 11 goals on 53 shots in two outings versus the Maple Leafs this season.
3. Toronto's eighth-ranked power play is mired in a 1-for-15 rut.
PREDICTION: Devils 3, Maple Leafs 2