The New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs meet for a fourth and final time Saturday at Air Canada Centre. Toronto took the first two games of the season series but lost 3-0 to the Rangers in their last meeting.
While Martin Biron earned the shutout in that game, the Rangers will start Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed four goals Friday night in a loss to the surging Buffalo Sabres. The All-Star netminder was in net for both losses earlier in the season to Toronto.
New York sits atop the Eastern Conference but they are in a fight with the Pittsburgh Penguins for that mantle. A loss in Toronto, combined with a Penguins win in Ottawa, will vault Pittsburgh ahead of the Rangers.
The Maple Leafs are also playing the second of back- to-back contests. Nazem Kadri scored a lovely shootout goal, faking to the backhand and then going forehand to beat Martin Brodeur and give Toronto a 4-3 victory Friday night in New Jersey.
“I am pretty happy with how it ended,” said Kardi of his heroics at Prudential Center. “It was pretty nerve wracking going in one-on-one with Marty Brodeur.”
He also scored a goal in regulation, which gives him five on the season.
The young forward has spent the majority of the season with the Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, and was called up on an emergency basis Thursday along with forward Ryan Hamilton after Matt Frattin and Clarke MacArthur both went down to injuries.
The seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft had his first opportunity to play for coach Randy Carlyle on Friday. Carlyle was complimentary of Kadri, but feels that there is much more work ahead for the 21-year-old.
“I don’t want things to get blown out of proportion, that’s one thing about this market, when somebody has success there is a lot of accolades and he earned them last night.” Carlyle said. “But he is a young player that has to push to be better, and give us the type of minutes that are safe ... he has areas to improve and defensive play would be one of them.”
James Reimer stopped 43 shots to earn the victory against the Devils, but there was no indication whether he or Jonas Gustavsson will be starting against the Rangers. Gustavsson has been in net for all three meetings with the Rangers this season.
Injured forward Mike Brown skated Saturday, one of nine forwards and defenseman that took part in the optional skate. He indicated that he is still not ready to play at this juncture but hopes to return within the week.
“I guess if there is practice tomorrow, I will go full practice with the team and hopefully get a few practices in before Tuesday and if not Tuesday then maybe Thursday,” Brown said. “At this point, [I’ll] just see how it is every day and listen to the trainers and wait for them to tell me if I am OK to play.”
Carlyle also expressed that he will go with a similar lineup to the one he deployed Friday night. Here is the projected lineup for the Leafs:
Matthew Lombardi - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Nazem Kadri - Mikhail Grabovski - Ryan Hamilton
Tim Connolly - David Steckel - Joey Crabb
Jay Rosehill - Carter Ashton - Colby Armstrong
Dion Phaneuf - Carl Gunnarsson
Mike Komisarek - John Michael-Liles
Luke Schenn - Jake Gardiner