Preview: Maple Leafs at Senators
A day after staging a spirited comeback to salvage the finale of their three-game homestand and inch closer to second place in the Atlantic Division, the Toronto Maple Leafs kick off a three-game road trip Saturday against the Ottawa Senators. Toronto netted five consecutive tallies Friday to erase a three-goal deficit and held on for a 7-6 triumph over Philadelphia.
Auston Matthews snapped a 5-5 tie with five minutes remaining in the third period and completed his ninth two-goal performance of the season 2:21 later as the Maple Leafs climbed within two points of Boston for home-ice advantage in what likely will be a first-round matchup between the Original Six rivals in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The 21-year-old Matthews has collected four goals and an assist over his last three games and is three points away from 200 for his career. Ottawa, which resides in the league basement, snapped its four-game skid (0-3-1) on Thursday with a 2-0 home blanking of St. Louis. Anders Nilsson posted his sixth career shutout while defenseman Christian Wolanin and Chris Tierney scored for the Senators, who have won only three of their last 16 contests (3-12-1).
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CBC, TVA2, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet Ontario
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (43-23-5): The team's defense corps contributed greatly in Friday's victory as five of its six blue-liners combined for three goals and six assists. Jake Muzzin led the charge by netting two tallies and setting up another, giving him four goals and 10 assists in 22 games since being acquired Jan. 28 from Los Angeles. Ron Hainsey notched a pair of assists against the Flyers, leaving him two points shy of 300 in the NHL.
ABOUT THE SENATORS (24-41-6): The blue line could receive some help Saturday as Slovakian rookie Christian Jaros and veteran Mark Borowiecki are likely to return to the lineup. The 22-year-old Jaros has been sidelined for six games with a hamstring injury while the 29-year-old Borowiecki has missed one contest because of illness. Tierney is riding a modest three-game point streak (two goals) and is two assists shy of 100 for his career.
1. Maple Leafs C John Tavares is one tally away from his first career 40-goal season and needs two points to reach 700 in the NHL.
2. Ottawa RW Bobby Ryan's next appearance will be the 800th of his career while D Dylan DeMelo is one game shy of 200.
3. Toronto C Patrick Marleau owns the sixth-longest consecutive games streak in league history after playing his 777th straight contest Friday.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs 5, Senators 1