Preview: Maple Leafs at Flyers
The Toronto Maple Leafs could receive a much-needed jolt on Saturday as captain John Tavares aims to return from a broken finger against the host Philadelphia Flyers. Tavares was injured after he was hit by a shot from teammate Morgan Rielly on Oct. 16, with the Maple Leafs losing that game to begin a 2-3-2 stretch.
"I'm definitely getting closer and hopefully I'm good for (Saturday)," Tavares said following Friday's practice. "I'm definitely right there so we'll evaluate things and then figure out for (Saturday), but hopefully that is the case." Auston Matthews has continued his offensive production in the face of Toronto's troubles, boosting his point total to eight (four goals, four assists) after scoring twice and setting up a goal in Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss to Washington. While the Maple Leafs are scuffling, the Flyers rebounded from a shellacking by Keystone State rival Pittsburgh with their fourth win in six outings following a 4-3 shootout victory over New Jersey on Friday. Sean Couturier, who scored in the second period and channeled his inner Peter Forsberg with a one-armed goal in the shootout, has three goals and four assists in his last five games against Toronto.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NHL Network, CBC, Sportsnet Ontario (Toronto), NBCS Philadelphia
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (6-5-3): Tavares' absence has been felt in many areas, but perhaps none more than a power play that is just 2-for-20 in the last six games. "The man in the middle on our power play hasn't been a left-handed shot," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We're not keeping anybody off (Matthews) that way, and that will make a huge difference to us." William Nylander, who has manned that position in Tavares' absence, notched an assist on Matthews' third-period goal versus the Capitals to boost his point total to four (one goal, three assists) in his last five games.
ABOUT THE FLYERS (6-5-1): Couturier told reporters after Friday's contest that his move in the shootout wasn't influenced by his reported left hand injury, although his smile during his comment may suggest otherwise. The 26-year-old ceded faceoff opportunities to fellow center Travis Konecny, who won seven of nine draws against the Devils. Konecny dented the scoresheet for the 10th time in 12 games after setting up Oskar Lindblom's team-leading seventh goal midway into the first period.
1. Toronto LW Andreas Johnsson has scored a goal in consecutive games overall and has three points (one goal, two assists) in four contests against Metropolitan Division opponents this season.
2. Philadelphia LW James van Riemsdyk recorded a hat trick in a 7-6 setback to his former team on March 15.
3. Maple Leafs D Jake Muzzin will miss Saturday's contest due to personal reasons, the team announced.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs 4, Flyers 1