Rested Rangers welcome improved Maple Leafs

NHL Hockey
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The New York Rangers will try to end a three-game home losing streak when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.

The Rangers are 3-4-1 overall this month following a 5-2 loss against the visiting Nashville Predators on Monday.

“We’ve played a lot of hockey in a short period of time,” Rangers coach David Quinn told reporters. “With this little break here, we’re able to give guys the proper rest and obviously have a full practice (Thursday), and have everybody ready to go.”

Toronto has won four of its past five games following a 5-3 win against the visiting Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe improved to 8-4-0 since taking over for Mike Babcock, who was fired on Nov. 20 after the Maple Leafs lost their sixth straight game.

Keefe has been impressed with how Toronto has turned things around.

“It just speaks to the potential of the team,” Keefe said. “Because we’re still nowhere near what I think we can look like, and what we’re capable of, but we’re doing a lot of good things.”

Keefe pointed to puck management as one area where the Maple Leafs can improve their game and better their chances of winning night after night.

“There are a lot of areas where we’ve got to be a little more purposeful,” he said. “A little more intelligent with what we do with the puck.”

The Maple Leafs recalled defenseman Martin Marincin and center Adam Brooks from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League on Thursday.

Brooks and left wing Trevor Moore each practiced in non-contact jerseys on Thursday, though Keefe said he expects Moore to be ready against the Rangers.

Moore was set to play on Tuesday against the Sabres but was kept out after taking a hit in practice on Monday.

Toronto forward Auston Matthews scored his 20th goal of the season against Buffalo to become the second player in franchise history with 20 goals in each of his first four NHL seasons.

Dave Keon scored at least 20 goals in his first six seasons with the Maple Leafs (1960-66).

“It’s a pretty big honor just to be in the same breath as that guy,” Matthews said. “His career and what he did here, it’s pretty unbelievable, so just to be mentioned in the same sentence is a huge privilege.”

Mitch Marner has also been hot for Toronto lately. The right wing will bring a five-game point streak (two goals, six assists) into the first matchup of the season against the Rangers.

Rangers center Mika Zibanejad has four goals and two assists in a three-game point streak, and left wing Chris Kreider has two goals and three assists in his past five games.

Quinn has also been impressed with defenseman Jacob Trouba, who was traded to the Rangers from the Winnipeg Jets on June 17 in exchange for defenseman Neal Pionk and Winnipeg’s first-round draft pick.

“I like his game a lot,” Quinn said. “His physicality gives us a lot back there on the blue line. We knew he was a really good player, but the thing I like about him is his smarts. He can really pass the puck. That element to his game has surprised me a little bit.”

–Field Level Media

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