NHL Game Preview - Maple Leafs v Predators

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5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)20:00 ET23:00 BRT, January 27, 2020
Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee  Attendance: 17,298

Predators, Leafs face off looking for second-half surge

Toronto Maple Leafs at Nashville Predators

  1. The Predators have won the last two meetings between the teams, both of them via shutout -- 4-0 in Toronto on January 7 and 3-0 at Nashville on March 19. The Preds have a shutout streak of 136 minutes, 21 seconds against the Leafs.
  2. Since Sheldon Keefe coached his first game behind the Leafs' bench on November 21, Toronto is averaging 3.96 goals per game (103 goals in 26 games), most in the league in that span. The team has a .673 points percentage under Keefe (16-7-3), ranking sixth among all teams since his debut.
  3. In six games under new head coach John Hynes, the Preds have scored two goals or fewer five times and are averaging 2.33 goals per contest (14 total). The team has scored no more than two goals in four straight contests; Nashville has not had a longer such streak since October-November 2017 (six games).
  4. Auston Matthews was held without a point in Toronto's last two games, both losses (0-1-1). The Maple Leafs are 9-14-2 when Matthews fails to score a goal, compared to 16-3-5 when he pots at least one. On the road, the Leafs are 6-0-0 when he scores at least one goal.
  5. After going 7-0-2 in the month of October, with a 2.19 GAA and .920 save percentage, Pekka Rinne was subpar in November and December, posting a 6-7-1 record, 3.67 GAA and .874 save percentage. He has recovered a bit in January: 3-3-0, 2.69 GAA, .914 save percentage.
  6. The Nashville defense corps has accounted for 29.8 percent of the team's points in 2019-20, second highest in the NHL (fractionally behind the Rangers). Toronto's blue line has produced 21.5 percent of the team's point production, second lowest in the league (Edmonton -- 20.9 percent).

The Toronto Maple Leafs blazed a trail up the NHL standings during a sizzling 9-0-1 stretch before losing five of their last six games (1-3-2) heading into the All-Star break.

After falling four points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Maple Leafs aim to cut into that deficit on Monday when they visit the Nashville Predators.

Auston Matthews sat out the All-Star Game due to an ailing wrist, however he is expected to be back in the lineup against the Predators. Matthews is tied for second in the NHL with 34 goals this season and is on pace to reach 57 tallies, which would break the franchise record of 54 set by Rick Vaive (1981-82).

"You want to compete out there and participate," the 22-year-old Matthews said of electing to bow out of the All-Star Game. "But in the grand scheme of things, the important games are the ones in the regular season.

"Getting a couple of extra days to heal and rest (the injury) is important. This is an important part of the season and that time is valuable to get healthy and move on."

While Toronto hasn't had much of an issue scoring goals (NHL fourth-best 3.57 per game), it has been rather generous in its own end. The Maple Leafs have surrendered 3.29 goals per game, which ranks as the fifth most in the league.

"We've been giving up a lot. We haven't been playing a (good) defensive game," said Mitch Marner, who leads the team with 34 assists.

"We're cheating for offense. We're doing things wrong and it's really hurting us."

Toronto was shut out in both encounters against Nashville last season, with Pekka Rinne making 18 saves in the Predators' 4-0 win on Jan. 7 and 22 stops in a 3-0 victory on March 19. The former Vezina Trophy recipient has blanked the Maple Leafs on three occasions and sports a 5-4-2 record with a 2.22 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 12 career encounters.

Rinne, however, has struggled to find his form since posting a 7-0-2 record in October, going 9-10-1 in his past 20 appearances.

Nashville dropped seven of 10 games since the Christmas break before skating to a 2-1 victory against Buffalo on Jan. 18. Rinne made 30 saves and Craig Smith scored the go-ahead power-play goal with 6:29 remaining in the third period in the win.

Captain Roman Josi set up Ryan Johansen's goal in the second period vs. the Sabres to boost his team-leading totals in assists (34) and points (48).

While Josi admittedly enjoyed himself in the All-Star Game, the Swiss star was quick to turn his attention toward the rest of the season.

"We need to make a push (for the playoffs) here," Josi said on Saturday. "We should come back really motivated, and I'm really excited. We have one day of practice, and then we get right back at it. I'm excited, and I have a lot of confidence in our group that we're going to make a push."

The Predators reside in the cellar of the Central Division, although they are just six points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 26, 2020

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