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Game Day: Maple Leafs vs. Preds

Nashville Hosts Toronto Looking to Inch Closer to Clinching a Spot in the Postseason

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

The Nashville Predators return home tonight, inching ever closer to clinching a spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs are tonight's opponent at Bridgestone Arena, the second and final time the two clubs will see each other this season.

Both teams continue to battle for postseason positioning - Nashville's magic number remains at three after Los Angeles defeated Calgary on Wednesday. Toronto currently sits third in the Atlantic Division with 87 points, just one point ahead of Boston for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

The Predators saw their four-game win streak come to an end on Tuesday with a 4-1 loss in Boston, but Nashville still has points in eight of their last 10 games, including four straight wins at home.

Ryan Johansen leads the Preds with 58 points, followed by Viktor Arvidsson with 56 and Filip Forsberg with 55. Both Arvidsson and Forsberg are tied for the team lead with 29 goals apiece, looking to become the third 30-goal duo in franchise history. Winger James Neal has 23 goals on the season and Roman Josi has 47 points from the blue line. Goaltender Pekka Rinne owns a 30-17-8 record between the pipes; Juuse Saros is 9-7-3.

Toronto (36-24-15) is coming off a 3-2 victory over Florida on Tuesday and have won four of their last five games. Star rookie Auston Matthews leads the team with 35 goals and 62 points, followed by fellow rookies William Nylander with 58 points and Mitch Marner with 57 points. Nazem Kadri has scored 30 goals for the Leafs and James van Riemsdyk has 23 goals on the season. Frederik Andersen is 30-15-14 in net for Toronto; Curtis McElhinney is 5-5-0.

Video: Preds have chance to retake third in Central with win

Update: Mike Fisher and PA Parenteau appear set to return to the Predators lineup tonight. For a full look at Nashville's projected lineup, click here.

As the Preds look to come closer to the 2017 postseason, here are three things to watch for:

Wisconsin's Finest:

After dishing out six assists last week, Craig Smith got a goal of his own on Tuesday night in Boston, his 10th of the season to give him seven points in his last five games. Smith has been playing his best hockey of the season and has had ample opportunities at the net over the past few contests. Will Tuesday's goal lead to more from No. 15? It could be just what he needed to really get going.

Video: Laviolette speaks prior to his 1,000th NHL game

1,000 for Laviolette:

Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette is set to become just the 28th coach in NHL history to be behind the bench for 1,000 games. He'll do so tonight against Toronto and will be the second U.S.-born coach to attain the feat. Laviolette recorded his 500th NHL win earlier this season, a memorable comeback in Minnesota. After the game, Laviolette said the manner in which is team won the game would make it a bit easier to recall the milestone down the road. Look to see if his team can give him a reason to remember No. 1,000 as well.

Video: Watson, Ekholm and Parenteau talk Leafs vs. Preds

The Kids Are Alright:

Auston Matthews scored four goals in his first NHL game back in October. Sure, he hasn't kept up that pace, but he's still worth a look. Matthews leads the Leafs in scoring and tonight marks his first visit to Nashville as an NHL player and first time Preds fans will get a look at not only Matthews, but other rookie stars William Nylander and Mitch Marner. The matchup between Toronto's rookies and some of the best defensemen in the League with the Preds will be one to watch.

When You Go:

All fans attending tonight's game will receive a team poster, courtesy of Fifth Third Bank. It's Thursday, and Bridgestone Arena doors open at 5 p.m. CT for Hockey Happy Hour - half-priced domestic draft beer and sodas at bars between Barrel House and FOX Sports Tennessee Bar until 6:30 p.m.

Take It In:

Tonight's game comes with a 7 p.m. CT puck drop, with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Tennessee and 6 p.m. on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.

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