For the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s simple. A win tonight against the New Jersey Devils is a must have if they want to all but solidify a spot in this year’s NHL postseason. The two teams will face-off tonight at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
For the Devils, it’s the home stretch of a season that just didn’t work out in their favour. For the Leafs, it’s a season that has defined their rebuild and devotion to the new youth movement. Still, the Leafs can’t take their opponent lightly.
The Devils still have 27 wins this season with some high-calibre players. Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri have led the way for the Devils this season. Palmieri has 25 goals and 49 points to lead the team with Hall heading up the assist-department with 30.
On the other side of it, the Leafs’ Auston Matthews is one goal away from tying the franchise record for a rookie (Wendel Clark’s 34 goals) and William Nylander needs a point of any kind to set another Leafs’ rookie record with a 10-game point streak.
New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs
Air Canada Centre – 7:30 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – SNO and MSG+
2016-17 Season Series:
November 23 – Devils 5 – Maple Leafs 4 (SO)
January 6 – Maple Leafs 4 – Devils 2
New Jersey Devils – 27-33-12 – 66 Points
Road Record: 12-19-6
Hot Players: Kyle Palmieri, Taylor Hall and Joseph Blandisi
Key Injuries: Devante Smith-Pelly, Mike Cammalleri and Jacob Josefson
Taylor Hall-Travis Zajac-Kyle Palmieri
Joseph Blandisi-Adam Henrique-Beau Bennett
John Quenneville-Pavel Zacha-Stefan Noesen
Miles Wood-Blake Coleman-Nick Lappin
Andy Greene-Ben Lovejoy
Jon Merrill-Steven Santini
John Moore-Damon Severson
Cory Schneider (expected)
Toronto Maple Leafs – 34-23-15 – 83 Points
Home Record: 18-10-7
Hot Players: William Nylander, Tyler Bozak, Morgan Rielly, James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri
Key Injuries: Nikita Soshnikov and Joffrey Lupul
Zach Hyman-Auston Matthews-William Nylander
Leo Komarov-Nazem Kadri-Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Mitch Marner
Matt Martin-Brian Boyle-Josh Leivo
Morgan Rielly-Connor Carrick
Jake Gardiner-Nikita Zaitsev
Matt Hunwick-Alexey Marchenko
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap]Likely thanks to his days with the Flyers, James van Riemsdyk leads all current Leafs’ players in career points (17), goals (9) and assists (8) against the Devils.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap]There are a number of Leafs facing upcoming milestones. Leo Komarov needs just two points to reach 100 for his career. Matt Martin is also just three points away from hitting the centennial mark in his career. With a win on Thursday, Curtis McElhinney will be one away from hitting 50 in his career.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap]This will be the 137th matchup between the Devils and Maple Leafs. The Leafs hold an all-time record of 68-39-20-9 against the Devils. Over that span, they are 44-16-5-4 at home when New Jersey is in town.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap]New Jersey will have to stay out of the box, as the Leafs hold the second best power play percentage at 23.8 percent success rate. The Devils are just 80.5 percent on the penalty kill which is tied for 17th in the NHL.
The Devils have a chance to play spoiler now that their season is basically over. With a big game happening between the Lightning and Bruins, the Leafs have to grab two points from New Jersey if they want to better their chances of locking down a playoff spot.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.