Preview: Golden Knights at Maple Leafs
With captain John Tavares finally back in the lineup after missing more than two weeks due to injury, the Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping to develop some consistency. The Maple Leafs will try to string together three consecutive victories for the first time this season when they continue a three-game homestand against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.
After losing four of five (1-2-2), Toronto made it back-to-back wins by scoring twice in the third period of a 3-1 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday. "We need to go through that. We need to figure out who we are and the harder the game is the better it is for the team," coach Mike Babcock said of the grind-it-out win. "Would you like to win by a touchdown? Yeah, but we're not getting anywhere like that." The Golden Knights had dropped four of six (2-2-2) and blown two-goal third-period leads in two straight before opening their four-game road trip with a 2-1 victory in Columbus. "It was nice to see it go our way after the last couple went the opposite way," forward Reilly Smith said after scoring both goals. "It's frustrating, so it's nice to get a win like that, especially on the road to start a long road trip."
TV: 7 p.m. ET, AT&T Sportsnet-Rocky Mountain (Las Vegas), Sportsnet Ontario (Toronto)
ABOUT THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS (9-5-2): Marc-Andre Fleury returned from a one-game absence due to the flu and turned aside 29 of 30 shots to become the league's first netminder to 10 wins, but his numbers are so-so versus Toronto: 18-12-4 with a 3.00 goals-against average and .897 save percentage. William Karlsson extended his point streak to five games and moved into second on the team with 16 after collecting a pair of assists for the second straight contest. Leading scorer Mark Stone has burned the Maple Leafs for 10 goals and 30 points in 21 games.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (8-5-3): Toronto needs to get some production on the power play, converting on only 2 of 22 chances in the seven games Tavares was sidelined. The Maple Leafs whiffed on all four opportunties Tuesday, although Tavares flipped a shot over a wide-open net with the extra skater. "I'd love to have it back," mused Tavares, who said after Wednesday's practice he was trying to get back into a rhythm. "I want to come back and make an impact right away. ... I want to go out there and play my game so just try to be better than yesterday."
1. Maple Leafs G Frederik Andersen has won three of four starts versus Vegas.
2. Golden Knights F Max Pacioretty has more goals against Toronto (19) than any other opponent.
3. Maple Leafs F William Nylander scored a goal and set up another Tuesday after collecting only four points in his previous 10 games.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs 4, Golden Knights 3