The Toronto Maple Leafs have stumbled a bit with losses in three of their last four games after recording a season-high six consecutive wins. With losses in 10 of their last 11 encounters in Calgary, the Maple Leafs look to regain their footing as they begin a three-game road trip against the Flames on Tuesday.
Although Nazem Kadri saw his career-best nine-game point streak halted in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Alex Ovechkin and Washington, the 27-year-old Ontario native is champing at the bit to test his mettle against another star in the NHL in Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau. “I like to go up against the best players and measure myself against that challenge,” Kadri told the Toronto Sun. “You have to be physical on (Gaudreau), He’s a great player, he’s got that upper-echelon skill. If you’re light or soft on him, he’s going to make you look bad.” Gaudreau (11 goals) and linemates Sean Monahan (team-best 14 goals) and Micheal Ferland (10 goals) have put many an opponent in an unfavorable light, combining for over half of the team’s 69 tallies this season. Ferland scored his 10th goal on Saturday as the Flames posted their eighth win in 12 outings (8-3-1) with a 3-2 victory at Colorado.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, TSN4 (Toronto), Sportsnet West (Calgary)
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (15-9-1): Kadri scored twice and Frederik Andersen turned aside all 26 shots he faced in a 4-0 home win over Calgary on Jan. 23. The victorious effort was nothing new for the 28-year-old Dane, who boasts a 5-0-1 career mark versus the Flames despite sporting a less-than-desirable .892 save percentage. Mitch Marner scored in that contest versus Calgary, but has been held off the scoresheet in each of his last three games after recording 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in his previous eight.
ABOUT THE FLAMES (13-9-1): Workhorse goaltender Mike Smith will make his first start since Friday when he faces Toronto, and the 35-year-old is welcoming the challenge. “It’s always a test when you come off a long road trip,” he said. “That first game at home always seems to be a challenge. I think it’ll be a good test for us.” Monahan routinely has been passing tests as he has recorded at least a point in 10 of his last 13 games - including 10 (six goals, four assists) in his last five.
1. Calgary C Mikael Backlund, who scored his 100th career goal on Saturday, has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his past 10 games.
2. Toronto C Dominic Moore has collected three assists over his last three contests.
3. Gaudreau’s team-best 23 assists are 11 more than that of the next closest member of the Flames (Monahan, LW Matthew Tkachuk and D T.J. Brodie each have 12).
PREDICTION: Flames 4, Maple Leafs 3