The Toronto Maple Leafs will aim to snap a three-game road losing skid on Friday when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opener of a home-and-home series.
Toronto fell to 0-2-1 over its last three road games following a 3-2 overtime loss in Montreal on Jan. 21. The Maple Leafs responded by winning three of their next four contests before concluding a five-game homestand with a 5-2 setback versus Boston on Feb. 1.
Mitchell Marner scored a goal versus the Bruins to boost his season total to a team-leading 60 points (19 goals, 41 assists). The NHL’s Third Star of the Week then set a single-tournament record at the All-Star Game by notching six assists — three apiece in the Atlantic Division’s two wins.
“Yeah, it was fun, a lot of fun. We’ve got a lot of gators in this locker room, so it was great to be a part of it,” Marner said of the tournament held in Sunrise, Fla.
Marner also has a few tough customers in his own locker room, namely William Nylander and reigning Hart Trophy recipient Auston Matthews. Nylander has scored six of his team-leading 28 goals over the last eight games, while Matthews remains idle while dealing with a sprained knee.
Ilya Samsonov has started the last eight games for the Maple Leafs, but he’ll split time with American Hockey League All-Star Joseph Woll during the home-and-home set as Matt Murray was placed on injured reserve as he continues to recover from an ankle injury.
Samsonov has turned aside 76 of 82 shots to post a 3-1-0 record with a .927 save percentage and 1.80 goals-against average in four career appearances (three starts) versus Columbus.
The Blue Jackets return to action looking to snap a three-game losing skid (0-2-1).
Offseason acquisition Johnny Gaudreau scored his team high-tying 14th goal in Columbus’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals on Jan. 31. Gaudreau, who pulled even with Patrik Laine and captain Boone Jenner in goals scored, also leads the team in assists (35) and assists (49).
Gaudreau recorded a hat trick in the Metropolitan Division’s 10-6 setback to the Atlantic Division in the All-Star Game tournament.
Columbus’ Andrew Peeke has contributed five goals this season, including one against Washington, to lead the team’s defensemen. He has elevated his play since being a healthy scratch on New Year’s Eve and, as a result, risen in the ranks to play on the top pair with Vladislav Gavrikov.
“Sometimes it’s just a couple bounces, which (the goal against the Capitals) was,” Peeke said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “It hit off a stick and hit off the pants. No one’s going to complain about that. I think my two previous goals were pretty good shots. It’s just building confidence and trusting that you have that skillset in you.”
Keeping the puck out of the net has been a persistent problem for the Blue Jackets, who have yielded an NHL third-worst 3.86 goals per game. They have allowed 60 goals in their last 16 games (4-10-2).
Elvis Merzlikins sports a rather generous 4.42 goals-against average, while Joonas Korpisalo’s 3.35 GAA represents significant improvement after finishing 2021-22 with a 4.15 mark.
–Field Level Media