The Toronto Maple Leafs are facing their first adversity of the season with two straight losses as they open a four-game road swing Monday night against the improving San Jose Sharks. The Maple Leafs, who opened the season with six wins in seven games, gave up 10 goals combined in losses to Carolina and Philadelphia the last two times out and have dropped nine straight meetings with the Sharks.
“A little reality therapy has probably set in for us,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock told reporters. “Everyone was telling us how great we were. We’re probably not as great as we felt, right now we’re probably not as bad as we feel.” The Maple Leafs will try to snap their first losing streak of the season against the Sharks, who open a five-game homestand with four wins in their last six contests after Saturday’s 3-2 win at Buffalo. The game will mark the return of Patrick Marleau, who posted 508 goals and 1,082 points in 1,493 career games with San Jose before signing with Toronto as a free agent in the offseason. “There’s going to be a lot of emotions going back there and seeing some familiar faces on the opposite side,” Marleau told Sportsnet. “It’s all new to me.”
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet One (Toronto), NBCSN California (San Jose)
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (7-4-0): While Toronto’s defense has suffered breakdowns, Frederik Andersen allowed 17 goals while losing three of his last four starts and owns an .890 save percentage overall. “I have to stay the course and keep battling,” Andersen, who had a .916 save percentage last season, told reporters. “I know what I’m capable of. I’m putting in the work to be better. … We have to look forward and stay positive.” James van Riemsdyk, who boasts five goals and nine points, could return after missing Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury.
ABOUT THE SHARKS (5-5-0): Goalie Martin Jones (4-3-0, .928 save percentage, 2.31 goals-against average) was rested Saturday and should be ready to try and improve on a 6-0-0 career record against the Maple Leafs. While reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns (six assists) has yet to hit the back of the net after posting 29 tallies last season, Logan Couture tops the team with eight goals - scoring five times in the last four contests. “He’s been doing that all year for us,” San Jose coach Pete DeBoer told reporters of Couture. “We need a big year out of him and he’s delivering so far.”
1. San Jose F Joe Thornton needs one point to pass Hall-of-Famer Jari Kurri (1,398) for 20th on the NHL’s all-time list.
2. Toronto C Auston Matthews has at least a point in nine of 11 games and leads the team with eight goals to go along with 15 points.
3. The Sharks have struggled on the power play the last five games (2-for-19), but their penalty kill is 19-of-20 in the same span.
PREDICTION: Maple Leafs 4, Sharks 3