New York Rangers and Maple Leafs put winning streaks on the line
The visiting New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs are two surging teams out to extend their winning streaks to five games Thursday night.
The Rangers defeated the visiting Montreal Canadiens 3-2 Tuesday night and have won six of their past nine games. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs beat the visiting Nashville Predators 3-0 on Tuesday and have won nine of their past 10.
Toronto likely has revenge on their mind, but the Blueshirts are full of swagger coming into what should be a great matchup.
New York Rangers up to the challenge
“We’ve definitely played a lot better hockey,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Better D-zone, better offensive, the stuff we talked about when we were winning but playing bad, we’ve improved a lot of that. So I think the team is getting together, knowing each other pretty well now and it’s just clicking.”
The Blueshirts are obviously facing a much stiffer test than the struggling Habs heading into Scoitabank Arena. Toronto boast some of the game’s best offensive players in Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner.
“I’m sure Sheldon Keefe is saying the same thing in Toronto,” Gallant explained about his own star players. “The top stars are really good hockey players and they’re talented. You’ve got to make sure you take them away but again, it’s about 20 guys on your roster.”
The Rangers are 6-2-2 on the road, including a 2-1 overtime victory in Toronto on Oct. 18.
Their six road wins has them tied for most in the NHL this season. The Rangers are also tied with Calgary for the most road points (14). New York’s 27 road goals has them ranked 4th in the league as well.
Gallant’s charges also have another challenge to overcome with the loss of Sammy Blais to a torn ACL. He was injured Sunday on a questionable play by P.K. Subban, who once again appeared to stick out his foot. The trip sent Blais hard into the boards ending his season very early.
Julien Gauthier, who has a chance to play regularly in the absence of Blais, scored his first goal of the season early in the third period on Tuesday.
“You talk about somebody leaving your lineup because of injury and a guy steps in and plays really well, and that’s what we need from our group,” Gallant said. “You talk about an organization, you need more than 20 players and Goat (Gauthier) stepped up and played a great game.”
Maple Leafs feeling good
The Maple Leafs also are feeling good about themselves after goaltender Jack Campbell earned his third shutout of the season Tuesday against a Predators team that had won three straight.
“Jack has remained consistent and solid,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The guys were not perfect (Tuesday), because we let guys in behind us, but Jack made saves. The posts were on his side (three times Nashville hit goal posts). He’s just been consistent, reliable. Pucks are hitting him in the chest more frequently than not. He’s hanging on to them. He’s been consistent, he’s been confident, and as a result our team confidence is real high as well.”
Campbell made 24 saves in gaining his seventh career shutout in his 100th NHL game (91 starts). Right winger Ondrej Kase contributed a late-game blocked shot.
“I think the third period was as good as we’ve played,” Keefe said.
“I thought that third period we really stepped up and shut the door,” said Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, who had a goal and an assist.
The Maple Leafs are 8-2-1 at home. They will be playing the second game of three straight at home on Thursday.
“I think that’s important,” Keefe said. “The way the schedule has worked out, we’ve played more at home than we’ve played on the road. So being good here has been important. Obviously, the road games are going to start to pile up and we’ve got a really good (record) there, too.”
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–Field Level Media contributed to this article