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'Hockey Night in Canada': 5 Storylines

Maple Leafs look for season split against Bruins; Sharks host Senators

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

The Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs will play for the fourth and final time during the regular season at Scotiabank Arena as part of a "Hockey Night in Canada" doubleheader on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN1, CITY, NESN, NHL.TV). The home team has won each of the previous three games.

In the second game, the surging San Jose Sharks will host the Ottawa Senators at SAP Center (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN1, TVAS, NBCSCA, NHL.TV). The Sharks have won five in a row and look to keep pace in the Pacific Division while the Senators had lost eight in a row (0-7-1) before beginning a three-game road trip with back-to-back wins against the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings.

Here are 5 storylines to keep an eye on:

 

Getting ready for spring

The Maple Leafs and Bruins appear to be headed toward another meeting in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last season, Toronto rallied from down 3-1 to force a Game 7, only to have Boston score four goals in the third period for a 7-4 win at TD Garden. The Maple Leafs (28-13-2) currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (34-8-2), and are four points ahead of the Bruins (25-15-4).

"Nobody wants to go into an opposing team's building in a Game 7," Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri said Friday. "That's something that's tough to do. [Home ice is] definitely going to benefit us. That's what we work all season for."

 

[RELATED: Bruins up for test against Maple Leafs]

 

Toronto's goaltending

The Maple Leafs had hoped that starting goalie Frederik Andersen, who hasn't played since Dec. 22 because of a groin injury, would be ready to return after practicing this week. However, he has the flu and didn't skate Saturday morning. That puts Michael Hutchinson, who was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers on Dec. 29, in line for his fifth consecutive start. With Andersen and backup Garret Sparks (concussion protocol) out, Hutchinson has gone 2-2-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and one shutout. The Maple Leafs recalled Kasimir Kaskisuo from Toronto of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis.

Video: NYR@TOR: Andersen makes series of saves

 

Bruins getting healthy

The Bruins enter Saturday third in the Atlantic Division, a tribute to their organizational depth after they were hit hard by injuries throughout the first half. But with the possible return of defenseman Charlie McAvoy, Boston could have their full roster (with the exception of depth forward Joakim Nordstrom) for the first time this season. The Bruins had their five-game winning streak end with a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday, but a road win against their rival would be a perfect way to rebound. 

"I think we've played them well no matter who's been in the lineup, to be honest with you," coach Bruce Cassidy said Friday. "I think our guys are comfortable in that regard. We're confident if we play our game that we can do well against Toronto."

 

Sharks are rolling

The Sharks are currently playing their best hockey of the season. Coming off a 3-2 road win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, San Jose is 14-3-2 in its past 19 games and has moved within three points of the Calgary Flames for first place in the Pacific Division. San Jose has a balanced offense; five players have at least 16 goals (Joe Pavelski, Timo Meier, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane) and Brent Burns leads NHL defensemen in scoring with 50 points (eight goals, 42 assists) while Erik Karlsson is tied for fourth with 41 points (three goals, 38 assists). But perhaps the best news for the Sharks has been the play of goalie Martin Jones. He made 36 saves against the Golden Knights for his sixth consecutive win, a stretch during which's he's allowed 15 goals after an up-and-down first half.

Video: NHL Now breaks down Sharks' comeback win vs. Vegas

 

Senators looking up

Ottawa is 10th in the NHL in goals per game at 3.16 but has allowed an NHL-leading 174 goals (3.87 per game) this season. However, the acquisition of goalie Anders Nilsson in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 2 has helped make up for the absence of starter Craig Anderson, who hasn't played since Dec. 21 because of a concussion. Nilsson allowed one goal in each of his past two starts, wins against the Ducks and Kings, and has been an upgrade from rookie Marcus Hogberg, who went 0-2-1 with a 4.08 GAA and .884 save percentage in four starts. Anderson is skating, but with no timetable for his return, the Senators hope Nilsson can carry the load.

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