GAMEDAY: Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS at WASHINGTON CAPITALS

7 p.m., Capital One Arena, HNIC, TSN Radio 1050

BIG MATCHUP

Nazem Kadri vs. Lars Eller

Five games in and Leafs centre Nazem Kadri, coming off back-to-back 32-goal seasons, remains in search of his first goal of 2018-19. He probably will have to go up against Eller at even-strength while trying to score it, and Kadri might want to forget he has just four goals in 20 career games versus Washington. Eller can get under opponents’ skin (right, Brad Marchand?) and should enjoy a tussle with Kadri throughout the evening.

FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

  1. Lock it down

As Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly attempt to make further inroads in the NHL record book, the Leafs as a whole can’t get away from themselves like they did in Detroit. It’s one thing to allow a sub-par Red Wings team control the game in the final 20 minutes while managing to win; it’s another to allow the dangerous and experienced Capitals, at any point in the game, the same kind of freedom.

  1. Play with fire

Through the first 10 days of the regular season, only seven teams have been shorthanded more often than Washington, which has been down 15 times. Caps penalty killers have been good on 12 of those shorthanded situations, but as we’ve seen, the Leafs don’t need numerous chances to score on power plays. As it has been doing for Toronto for the most part in five games, the power play could tip the scales on Saturday.

  1. Work the circle

When he has not been putting the puck in the net, Matthews has been winning faceoffs, clipping along at a Leafs-high 55.5% (and 29th in the NHL overall). The Caps are carrying just a 43% in Corsi, and part of the reason is their abysmal showing at the dot, sitting in 30th at 42%. The Leafs are a shade over 50% in Corsi, but could improve on that against a Washington team that has trouble in possession.

  1. On the spot

John Tavares’ hot start with the Leafs — six goals and four assists in four games — has been overshadowed, if only a bit, by the production of Matthews and Rielly. It’s worth noting that for years on an inferior New York Islanders team, Tavares did fine against Washington, recording 30 points (15 goals and 15 assists) in 34 games. Don’t expect Tavares to stray too far from the scoresheet on Saturday.

  1. Caps crunched

The Capitals were beaten 6-0 by the Devils in New Jersey on Thursday, and it served as a reminder that teams will get up for games against the defending Cup champs. Washington expects a hungry Toronto group. “Years past, I remember playing games against the team that won (the Cup) and using it as a measuring stick,” defenceman Matt Niskanen said. “We’ll have to learn how to deal with that.”

MAPLE LEAFS LINES

LW-C-RW

Patrick Marleau-Auston Matthews-Kasperi Kapanen

Zach Hyman-John Tavares-Mitch Marner

Par Lindholm-Nazem Kadri-Connor Brown

Josh Leivo-Frederik Gauthier-Tyler Ennis

Defence pairs

Morgan Rielly-Ron Hainsey

Jake Gardiner-Nikita Zaitsev

Travis Dermott-Igor Ozhiganov

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen

Garret Sparks

CAPITALS LINES

LW-C-RW

Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Brett Connolly

Jakub Vrana-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky-Lars Eller-Chandler Stephenson

Dmitrij Jaskin-Nic Dowd-Devante Smith-Pelly

Defence pairs

Dmitri Orlov-Matt Niskanen

Michal Kempny-John Carlson

Brooks Orpik-Christian Djoos

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby

Pheonix Copley

INJURIES

Capitals — F Travis Boyd (lower body).

Maple Leafs — None.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play

Capitals: 37.5% (4th)

Maple Leafs: 50% (2nd)

Penalty kill

Capitals: 80% (15th)

Maple Leafs: 84.6% (12th)

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies