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Preview: Maple Leafs at Panthers

Toronto goes for fourth straight win; Jakub Kindl in lineup for Florida

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com Correspondent

MAPLE LEAFS (31-22-14) at PANTHERS (29-27-11)

7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, FS-F, TSN4, NHL.TV

 

Maple Leafs team scope

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who did not have a morning skate after practicing in Sunrise, Florida, on Monday, will be looking for their fourth consecutive victory. Toronto has a one-point lead over the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, with a game in hand on each. Florida is seven points back. Rookie Auston Matthews has gone five games without a point, matching his longest drought of the season. "Well, I noticed (Alex Ovechkin) didn't have a goal in 10 games; I don't think they're worried about (him)," coach Mike Babcock said Monday. "I'm not going to spend too much time worrying about Auston." Right wing Connor Brown will rejoin Matthews on the top line with Zach Hyman. "What I like about Brown with Hyman and Matthews together is they can play against anybody," Babcock said. "No matter who they match up against, they're going to play a ton of time in the offensive zone."

 

Panthers team scope

Defenseman Jakub Kindl will play for the first time in 19 games when he replaces Aaron Ekblad, who is expected to miss 7-10 days because of a concussion sustained in a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Rookie forward Denis Malgin also is expected to miss 7-10 days with a concussion sustained Saturady. MacKenzie Weegar was recalled from Springfield of the AHL, but Kindl will get into the lineup after being a healthy scratch since Jan. 23. "Kindl has been so professional and been incredibly positive," coach Tom Rowe said, "I didn't want to not put Kindl in to see what Weegar can do." The Panthers will go back to their regular forward lines against Toronto, with Jonathan Huberdeau rejoining Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, and Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen again skating with Vincent Trocheck. The Panthers switched lines the past three games. "Everybody is more comfortable with those combinations," Rowe said. "We talked to a few of the guys. We thought putting Huberdeau back with Barkov and Jagr gave us the best chance to win and the same thing with Smith back with Trocheck. We're going to go with that, get them more comfortable and go after it tonight and see what happens."

 

Maple Leafs projected lineup

Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- Connor Brown

Leo Komarov -- Nazem Kadri -- William Nylander

James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Mitchell Marner

Matt Martin -- Brian Boyle -- Nikita Soshnikov

Morgan Rielly -- Nikita Zaitsev

Jake Gardiner -- Martin Marincin

Matt Hunwick -- Roman Polak

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Alexey Marchenko, Ben Smith, Eric Fehr, Josh Leivo

Injured: Connor Carrick (upper body)

 

Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Aleksander Barkov -- Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen -- Vincent Trocheck -- Reilly Smith

Thomas Vanek -- Nick Bjugstad -- Jonathan Marchessault

Shawn Thornton -- Derek MacKenzie -- Colton Sceviour

Keith Yandle -- Jason Demers

Michael Matheson -- Alex Petrovic

Jakub Kindl -- Mark Pysyk

James Reimer

Reto Berra

Scratched: Michael Sgarbossa, MacKenzie Weegar

Injured: Roberto Luongo (lower body), Aaron Ekblad (concussion), Denis Malgin (concussion)

 

Status report

Andersen is expected to make his fourth consecutive start. He is 5-2-0 with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in seven career games against Florida. … Reimer, who will make his fifth consecutive start, will face his former team for the second time. He played with the Maple Leafs for parts of six seasons from 2010-16. He started in a 6-1 loss at Toronto on Nov. 17. Rowe said Luongo likely will be out another week. Thornton is expected to return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past three games.

 

Who's hot

Marner has six points (two goals, four assists) during a five-game point streak. Nylander has a four-game point streak (one goal, three assists). Bozak has two goals and five assists during his current five-game point streak. Kadri has three goals in his past four games. … Pysyk has a goal in each of the past two games. Florida has killed off 32 of 33 penalties during its past 13 games. Barkov has four points (one goal, three assists) in each of the past two games.

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