Preview: Wildcard Race Heats Up With Maple Leafs, Islanders

The playoff battle in the Eastern Conference is already heating up when the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the New York Islanders at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night.

Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL
Marner has three goals and three assists in the past six games for the Maple Leafs. (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

The Leafs, who are coming off two losses in a row, sit just one point up on the Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers in the race for the final wildcard spot. But the Leafs also sit just three points behind the Bruins with four games in hand.

That being said, the Islanders have seen a resurgence as of late. Since the team fired former head coach Jack Capuano, New York has won eight of their 12 games under Doug Weight.

The Leafs will look to their young guns to get their offence back on track as Mitch Marner has led the way for the team over the past six games. Over that span he has three goals and six points to lead the Leafs. While he’s only played two games against the Islanders in his short career, Marner does have a goal against them.

It should be a fast-paced game with its fair share of offence. But expect Mike Babcock’s Leafs to come out with something to prove after having the past two days off following a 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

New York Islanders at Toronto Maple Leafs

Air Canada Centre – 7:30 p.m. EST

Broadcast channels – TSN4 and MSG+

2016-17 Season Series:
October 30 – Islanders 5 – Maple Leafs 1
February 6 – Islanders 6 – Maple Leafs 5 (OT)

New York Islanders – 25-19-10 – 60 Points

Road Record: 7-11-4

Hot Players: Anders Lee, Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey

Key Injuries: Cal Clutterbuck, Mikhail Grabovski and Travis Hamonic

Projected Lines:


Anders Lee-John Tavares-Josh Bailey

Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Ryan Strome

Andrew Ladd-Alan Quine-Jason Chimera

Shane Prince-Casey Cizikas-Nikolay Kulemin


Nick Leddy-Johnny Boychuk

Thomas Hickey-Adam Pelech

Calvin de Haan-Dennis Seidenberg


Thomas Greiss

Toronto Maple Leafs – 25-18-11 – 61 Points

Home Record: 13-9-4

Hot Players: Mitch Marner, Tyler Bozak, Auston Matthew and William Nylander

Key Injuries: Joffrey Lupul and Nikita Soshnikov

Projected Lines:


Leo Komarov-Nazem Kadri-William Nylander

James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Mitch Marner

Zach Hyman-Auston Matthews-Connor Brown

Matt Martin-Ben Smith-Josh Leivo


Morgan Rielly-Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner-Connor Carrick

Matt Hunwick-Roman Polak


Frederik Andersen

Game Notes

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap]Tyler Bozak, who has been one of the hottest Leafs over the past six games, is tied with Sid Smith (183) for 29th on the Leafs all-time assists list. With one more assist, Bozak will tie Tod Sloan (184) for 28th on the franchise’s all-time list.

Doug Weight, New York Islanders, NHL, Hockey
Doug Weight has coached the Isles to an 8-2-2 record in his first 12 games as head coach. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap]Josh Bailey has 11 goals and 38 points this season. With just one more tally, the Islanders forward will tie Benoit Hogue and Ed Westfall (105) for 26th on the Islanders’ all-time list. Two more points and he will also tie Alexei Yashin (290) for 22nd on the team’s all-time points list.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap]The Islanders and Leafs have met 150 times over their existence. The Leafs lead the all-time series 68-65-7-10, but the Islanders have out scored Toronto 533 to 485 over that span.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap]The Islanders are coming of a win and are 6-2-2 in their last 10. With Weight as their head coach, the Isles have an 8-2-2 record in 12 games and have climbed the Eastern Conference standings – sitting just one point out of a wildcard spot.

[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]5)[/miptheme_dropcap]The Maple Leafs are looking to stop the bleeding, coming off two losses in a row. They’re 4-4-2 in their last 10 and sit just one point up on the Islanders and Flyers for the final wildcard spot.

The winner of this game will have some bragging rights as they will hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Don’t expect either team to give up opportunities that easily, but it’ll take a big performance from either Greiss or Andersen to pick up two very big points.