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Kadri back for Maple Leafs to face Predators

by Davis Harper

PREDATORS (10-9-2) at MAPLE LEAFS (13-7-1)


Last 10: Nashville 4-5-1; Toronto 6-3-1

Season series: This is the second of two games. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Nashville Predators 4-0 at Bridgestone Arena on Oct. 10, with James Reimer stopping all 36 shots.

Big story: Nashville and Toronto will take the ice Thursday looking to build on two-game winning streaks. The Predators, who were outscored 17-2 during a four-game skid from Nov. 8-15, have rediscovered their blue line in wins over the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.

Center Nazem Kadri returns from a three-game suspension Thursday for Toronto, which is 2-0-0 on a five-game homestand and has won five straight at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs didn't score more than one regulation goal for five consecutive games from Nov. 2-15, but have nine in back-to-back wins against the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders.

Team Scope:

Predators: Rookie goaltender Marek Mazanec earned his first NHL shutout Tuesday night by stopping 27 shots in a 2-0 victory in Detroit. It was his second straight win; he made 39 saves in a 7-2 rout of the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

"He's catching up to the level," coach Barry Trotz said. "He's confident after seeing some of the best players in the world. When you start facing those guys on a regular basis, you're going to feel a little bit more confident if you have success."

Mazanec has faced 68 shots in the wins against the Blackhawks and Red Wings, but Nashville was 8-for-8 on the penalty kill and allowed seven shots.

Maple Leafs: Toronto plans to test that penalty kill. The Maple Leafs own the League's third-best power play (24.7 percent), a number bolstered by three goals on seven chances during the wins against the Sabres and Islanders. It was a sign of life from an offense hobbled by the absence of centers Dave Bolland (ankle), Tyler Bozak (hamstring) and Kadri.

Kadri, who was banned for a hit against Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom on Nov. 13, is eager to be back in the lineup

"I've never had an incident like that, where some of my hits have been questioned," Kadri said. "Normally, I'll hit guys when they're vulnerable, but I'll make sure my arms are down, and my shoulders are down."

Who's hot: Nashville captain Shea Weber has two goals and an assist in his past two games. … Toronto forward James van Riemsdyk has two goals and an assist in the wins against Buffalo and the Islanders; he had a goal and an assist in the first game against Nashville. Phil Kessel scored twice against the Islanders to reach the 400-point mark in his career.

Injury report: Nashville forward Eric Nystrom (head) is questionable, and center Filip Forsberg (upper body) is out. Goaltender Pekka Rinne (hip) remains sidelined. … Bozak practiced this week and could make his return Thursday. Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser (lower body) is questionable, and Bolland remains on injured reserve.

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