Leafs Back In Action Against The Flyers
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers both carry three-game winning streaks into their matchup Thursday night in Toronto, but under very different circumstances.
Toronto has its sights on ending the NHL's longest playoff drought after last reaching the postseason in 2004. While the Maple Leafs (20-12-4) own a share of fifth place in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers (16-17-3) are much more desperate. They currently sit four points out of eighth place, in serious danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2007.
The Maple Leafs - also aiming for their first season sweep of the Flyers in six years - last played on Saturday, earning a 4-0 win at Ottawa to equal the Senators' 44 points. Toronto has been one of the league's highest scoring teams all year with 3.1 goals per game, and that hasn't changed lately with 30 goals over the last eight games.
Nazem Kadri is at the crux of the production, with a hat trick against Ottawa and 14 points over his last eight games.
But Toronto is also allowing 31.8 shots and 2.7 goals a contest, though they took a step toward bolstering that defense Wednesday by trading a fourth-round pick in 2014 to Colorado for defenseman Ryan O'Byrne.
The 6-foot-5, 234-pound O'Byrne ranked second on the Avalanche with 76 hits, and should mesh nicely with coach Randy Carlyle's penchant for physical play. Toronto averages more hits than any other team with 32.5 a game.
"Toronto's a team that's right in the mix (of the playoffs)," O'Byrne told the team's official website, arriving from a squad last in the league with 28 points. "I play hard, play physical, try to do the dirty things. I'm looking forward to playing for (Carlyle)."
The three-game win streak for the Flyers is their first this season, and they took another step forward on Wednesday with a 5-3 comeback victory over Montreal. Philadelphia trailed 3-2 entering the third and had been 1-11 when facing a deficit going into the final period. But Wayne Simmonds notched the tying goal with under six minutes to go and Matt Read followed with the game-winner less than two minutes later.
"We don't have any choice," coach Peter Laviolette said. "The only thing we control right now is our games and we've got to make sure we win them."
Philadelphia also made a move before Wednesday's deadline, acquiring Steve Mason from Columbus for Michael Leighton in a swap of backup goalies. Mason is 3-6-1 this season with a 2.95 goals-against average and will serve as the Flyers' No. 2 netminder behind Ilya Bryzgalov.
Both teams bring in hot power-play units. The Maple Leafs have scored on the man advantage in four straight games, capitalizing on four of 15 chances. While the Flyers' streak of consecutive games with a power-play goal ended at five on Wednesday, they've still scored six times on 12 opportunities over the last six contests.
Toronto's Joffrey Lupul has 13 points in six games since returning from a fractured forearm that forced him to miss 25 games.
Philadelphia had won nine of 10 in the series before Toronto claimed victories in the first two meetings this season. The Maple Leafs outscored the Flyers 9-4 in those games despite being outshot, 71-46.