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game preview

Maple Leafs at Panthers preview

Toronto leads Florida by two points for third place in Atlantic Division

by Dave McCarthy / Independent Correspondent

MAPLE LEAFS (33-23-8) at PANTHERS (33-24-6)

7 p.m. ET; TVAS, FS-F, TSN4, NHL.TV 


The Game

The Florida Panthers will try to tie the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division when the teams face each other at BB&T Center on Thursday.

The fourth-place Panthers, who are 4-7-1 since defeating the Maple Leafs 5-3 on Feb. 3, trail Toronto by two points. They went 3-2-0 on a five-game road trip that ended Tuesday with a 2-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes.

The Maple Leafs will be without defenseman Jake Muzzin, who broke his left hand in a 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. He will be out four weeks.

Goalie Frederik Andersen is expected to make his sixth straight start for the Maple Leafs, who are 2-3-0 in their past five games and 5-6-1 in their past 12.


Players to watch

Maple Leafs forward William Nylander has five points (two goals, three assists) during a four-game point streak, including the game-winning goal and an assist against the Lightning on Tuesday.

Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov has six points (three goals, three assists) during a five-game point streak.


They said it

"It's an opportunity for everybody to step up here. You want to build on the game against Tampa Bay, you want to take the pros out of everything. Obviously, Jake [Muzzin] is a big part of our team. It seems like a lot of guys we've lost are big parts, but it's an opportunity for guys to grow and step into shoes they're not used to being in." -- Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott

"We rebounded pretty good after the first period [against the Coyotes]. (Goalie) Sergei Bobrovsky kept us in the game the whole time, and we were able to take the lead in the third and seal the deal. Every game is important from here on out, and the more points we can collect, the better chance we'll have to make the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs, and that starts tonight against Toronto." -- Panthers forward Mike Hoffman


Maple Leafs projected lineup   

Jason Spezza -- Auston Matthews -- Mitchell Marner

Zach Hyman -- John Tavares -- William Nylander

Pierre Engvall -- Alexander Kerfoot -- Kasperi Kapanen

Kyle Clifford -- Frederik Gauthier -- Denis Malgin

Rasmus Sandin -- Tyson Barrie

Travis Dermott -- Justin Holl

Martin Marincin -- Timothy Liljegren

Frederik Andersen

Jack Campbell

Scratched: Calle Rosen

Injured: Ilya Mikheyev (wrist laceration), Morgan Rielly (fractured foot), Cody Ceci (ankle), Andreas Johnsson (meniscus), Jake Muzzin (broken hand)


Panthers projected lineup

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Aleksander Barkov -- Evgenii Dadonov

Mike Hoffman -- Erik Haula -- Frank Vatrano

Aleksi Saarela -- Lucas Wallmark -- Brett Connolly

Colton Sceviour -- Noel Acciari -- Mark Pysyk

MacKenzie Weegar -- Aaron Ekblad

Riley Stillman -- Anton Stralman

Keith Yandle -- Mike Matheson

Sergei Bobrovsky

Sam Montembeault

Scratched: Josh Brown, Dominic Toninato

Injured: Chris Driedger (lower body), Brian Boyle (undisclosed)


Status report

Neither the Panthers nor Maple Leafs held a morning skate.


Stat pack

Tavares has five points (three goals, two assists) during a three-game point streak. ... Barrie has four assists in his past two games. ... Spezza is two assists away from 600 in the NHL. ... Hoffman has seven points (four goals, three assists) during a five-game point streak. ... Haula will play his 400th NHL game.

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