DEVILS (26-20-5) at MAPLE LEAFS (18-22-9)
TV: MSG+, SNO, NHL.TV
TORONTO - It will be milestone night when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the New Jersey Devils at Air Canada Centre on Thursday.
Not only will Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock be coaching his 1,000th NHL game, Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf will play his 800th game, right wing Joffrey Lupul his 700th game and center Nazem Kadri his 300th game.
Babcock said when he broke into the NHL, he believed experience was overrated, but in time changed his mind.
"As you get on, you understand how important it is," Babcock said. "It helps you make better decisions. I have become a way better coach because I understand what athletes go through and the mental grind it can be."
Babcock joined the Maple Leafs last summer, when he signing an eight-year $50 million contract. He coached the Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in 2008 and Canada to Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014. He also coached Canada to gold medals at the 2004 World Championship and at the World junior Championship in 1997.
Babcock was complimentary about the job Phaneuf has done as captain of the Maple Leafs this season. Phaneuf said reaching his milestone is special.
"It just shows how fast time goes," Phaneuf said. "It has been a journey; one that I have enjoyed every minute of. We're very lucky to do what we do. We play a game that we grew up loving and we make a living doing it."
Lupul said he tends not to get too sentimental about milestones, but making it to the 700 Club is significant.
"I was a good player as a kid, but I never thought that I would have an NHL career in my future, let alone a lengthy one," Lupul said. "As you start to get older and wind down your career, this is a big milestone, especially when there was some years [because of injury] I had some people tell me I couldn't play anymore."
The Devils will start backup goalie Keith Kinkaid. Cory Schneider, who played in the NHL All-Star Game, said he'll be ready for Saturday's game against the Washington Capitals despite the fact he has a minor undisclosed injury.
"We need to have two goalies in there," coach John Hynes said. "We have a lot of back-to-backs and we have a tough stretch this week so it's good to get [Kinkaid] in there; get him a game and get him started rolling."
Hynes said he has no level of concern about Schneider's injury.
"Cory has had a lot of hockey," Hynes said, "and we think we have a short turnaround going to Washington and we need Keith to play, so Cory can get the rest physically and mentally that he needs to be ready to go."
The Devils, coming off a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers on Tuesday and have won five of their past six games, welcome back defenseman John Moore, who missed three games with a lower body injury.
Moore said he found it painful to be in the press box while his team was battling to stay in the race for a wild card spot for the playoffs.
"It's really hard," Moore said. "This is the fun time of the season, especially when you are in the thick of it. You see that game the other night against the Rangers how close it was and how coveted the points are each and every night so it's hard to sit there."
Here are the projected lineups:
Joseph Blandisi - Adam Henrique - Lee Stempniak
Sergey Kalinin - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri
Reid Boucher - Jacob Josefson - Tyler Kennedy
Bobby Farnham - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Eric Gelinas - David Schlemko
Seth Helgeson - John Moore
Injured: Jon Merrill (right arm), Patrik Elias (right knee), Jiri Tlusty (right wrist).
Scratches: Stefan Matteau, Tuomo Ruutu, Damon Severson
Peter Holland - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
Michael Grabner - Tyler Bozak - PA Parenteau
Shawn Matthias - Nick Spaling - Daniel Winnik
Joffrey Lupul - Byron Froese - Rich Clune
Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly
Dion Phaneuf - Frank Corrado
Jake Gardiner - Roman Polak
Injured: James van Riemsdyk (foot), Stephane Robidas (lower body)
Scratched: Brad Boyes, Martin Marincin
Status report: Cammalleri will miss his second game because of a hand injury.
Who's hot: Schneider has allowed two or fewer goals in 27 of his past 35 starts. He has a 1.96 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in that stretch … Stempniak has five goals in five games … Schlemko has four points in four games…Kadri has three goals in his past four games and five points in his past seven.