Auston Matthews scored his 15th and 16th goals in the Leafs’ 7-3 win over Ottawa Thursday, but he hasn’t scored in three games vs. Montreal.
Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Maple Leafs game at the Bell Centre on Saturday (7 p.m., SN, CITY, CBC, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM):
The matchup: This is the fourth of 10 games between these traditional rivals and the Canadiens have a 1-1-1 record after coming from behind last Saturday to defeat the Leafs 2-1 in Toronto. That was Montreal’s most recent game, while the Leafs kept busy this week by taking five of a possible six points in three games against the lowly Ottawa Senators. The run against Ottawa allowed the first-place Leafs to increase their lead over the Canadiens in the North Division to eight points, but Toronto has played three more games.
Tatar back in the lineup: There will be one change from the lineup that beat the Leafs last Saturday as Tomas Tatar returns to the Jesperi Kotkaniemi line after sitting out one game as a healthy scratch. Missing from the lineup is Paul Byron, who cleared waivers this week and has been placed on the taxi squad. Carey Price will start in goal in the first of a back-to-back set and Jake Allen is expected to play Sunday, when the Canadiens travel to Ottawa. Head coach Claude Julien has been rotating the players on his third defence pairing, but Victor Mete earned his fourth start of the season after a strong showing against Toronto last week.
Nothing wrong with Danault: There has been a lot of talk about Phil Danault’s struggles this season, but the veteran centre has been doing what he’s supposed to do, bringing a strong two-way presence to every game. Danault is the Canadiens’ No. 1 faceoff man and draws the defensive assignment against top centres. He’s a big reason why Auston Matthews, the top goal-scorer in the NHL this season, has failed to score against Montreal this season. Danault’s line was key last Saturday, producing both of the third-period goals.
Matthews on a roll: Matthews scored twice in the Leafs’ 7-3 win over Ottawa Thursday and has 16 goals in 17 games. He has scored in 12 of his 17 appearances and three of the five games in which he has failed to score have been against the Canadiens. Mitch Marner is the Leafs’ leading scorer with 27 points, including eight goals. The Leafs are No. 2 in goals scored per game (3.72) with John Tavares, William Nylander and Zach Hyman contributing to an offence whose production drops off after the top two lines.
Last chance for Galchenyuk? The Maple Leafs’ attempts to shore up the bottom six took a strange turn this week when they traded for Alex Galchenyuk, who is with his fifth team since the Canadiens gave up on him in 2018. Galchenyuk started the season as a reclamation project for the Senators, but they traded him to Carolina after he picked up one goal in eight appearances. The Hurricanes told him not to bother reporting to Carolina and he was flipped to Toronto. A former No. 3 overall draft pick, Galchenyuk represents a low-risk, high-reward proposition for the Leafs, but the smart money says Toronto is the last stop before Galchenyuk heads to the KHL.
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LeBron James re-injures ankle
James departed the 121-114 loss to the Toronto Raptors with 6:42 remaining in the contest.
“His ankle is battling some soreness,” Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel said afterward. “We decided not to bring him back.”
James was playing for the second time since missing 20 games due to the injured ankle. He said it has tightened up on him at halftime in both games.
Vogel and James were both in wait-and-see mode per whether the star forward could play against Denver.
“The plan is to see how I feel and go from there,” James said.
James also was thinking about the big picture.
“The most important thing for me is to be healthy and be at full strength when it really matters,” James said.
James recorded 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists against Toronto as the slumping Lakers lost for the sixth time in seven games. They are 0-2 since James returned.
“I think our team is predicated on health,” James said. “That is the No. 1 thing for our ball club. We need to be healthy and we need to be at full strength.”
–Field Level Media
FTB: What’s in store for the Maple Leafs in their final five games? – Pension Plan Puppets
Next week the Leafs have three games against the Habs; Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Monday’s game is in Montreal, while the others are in Toronto. Saturday’s game is also the final home game for the regular season. These games could help determine who the Leafs play in the first round since the Jets continue to flounder, losing six games in a row, and are now only two points up on the Habs. Some Montreal wins next week could put them in third place, knocking the Jets down to fourth where they would face the Leafs in the playoffs. That would also mean the Leafs would have to lose to the Habs all week, which… I don’t like any of these options! Just win all the games, Leafs.
The following week the Leafs wrap up the season on the road, with a trip to Ottawa, and then ending it rather unceremoniously on Friday in Winnipeg in what looks to be a regionally blacked-out game broadcast only on TSN4 in Toronto. That certainly lacks the grandeur of the final scheduled game of previous seasons, but hopefully it will be the start of a very long playoff run. The playoff games will all be on Sportsnet with no blackouts on NHL Live.
Hardev caught us up on the Marlies yesterday morning.
The Marlies played the Senators yesterday afternoon and lost 5-3. Joseph Woll was in net. He’s being backed up by Veini Vehvilainen who you may recall the Leafs picked up in exchange for Mikko Lehtonen in early March.
The Marlies host the Senators again this afternoon at 3:00 p.m.
Sportsnet is at it again with the wonky charts. I don’t even know what to do with this one. As Fulemin noted, if Matthew Tkachuk is down to bringing nothing but “size” to his line, it’s no wonder the Flames are having such a bad season.
Then again, this all sort of played out last night as the Flames lost 4-1 and Tkachuk fought (checks notes) Tyson Barrie? What?! Yes, it actually happened. Here’s the video!
The Hurricanes’ goalie picked up a primary assist on this game winner. Also <3 Dougie
The next Connor: Hockey’s latest phenom went distance to find a game in pandemic – CBC
Connor Bedard, the first player granted exceptional status to suit up in the WHL a year early and tabbed as the likely first pick in the 2023 NHL draft, saw his inaugural junior season put on ice by COVID-19. That began a long road, including a trip to Sweden with his sister, to where he is now.
Capital Gains: Van Riemsdyk Making Most of Opportunity – Japers’ Rink
The 29-year-old has maintained a positive attitude despite an up-and-down season, and it’s paying off in his return to the lineup and sudden resurgence.
High school hockey in desert flourishing despite lack of AIA sanction – PBS
Hockey is one of the few sports not sanctioned by the AIA, but it has managed to be successful. Much of that has to do with the Arizona High School Hockey Association.
Enjoy your Sunday. Our Back to Excited podcast has been postponed until Tuesday this week.
Canada sends medical supplies to India as COVID-19 overwhelms country’s health care – Global News
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada for Wednesday, May 5, 2021 – moosejawtoday.com
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