The Toronto Maple Leafs could wrap up the North Division title a number of ways, but a victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday would make that achievement that much sweeter. The Leafs have an eight-point lead over Edmonton with three games remaining and any combination of Toronto earning a point or the Oilers losing one in their final four contests would give the Leafs top spot in the division and home ice advantage in the first two rounds.
Montreal is only mathematically in danger of falling out of fourth place, with Calgary and Vancouver having enough games to make the large deficit. The Habs have a slim chance of catching Winnipeg for third place, trailing the Jets by two points, but they have a game in hand and play Ottawa, Vancouver twice and the Leafs at the Bell MTS Centre in the final week.
A potential Toronto – Montreal series would be the first time the two squads would meet since 1979, when the Canadiens swept the Leafs in four games on their way to their fourth straight Stanley Cup. The two clubs have met in the post-season 15 times, with Montreal winning eight series and Toronto seven. The Leafs last victory over the Habs was…….you guessed it…..1967.
Phillip Danault suffered a concussion in the 5-2 loss on Thursday and the Canadiens reported on Saturday that he will be returning to Montreal for further evaluation. Danault’s primary assignment in previous games has been to matchup against Auston Matthews.
Forwards Brendan Gallagher (broken thumb) and Paul Byron (lower-body injury) appear to be on track to return for the playoffs, defenseman Shea Weber is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and goalie Carey Price started skating this week after suffering a concussion on April 19 in Edmonton, but the club has not reported any timeline for his return.
The Leafs are expected to make a couple lineup changes on Saturday, inserting Adam Brooks and Ben Hutton for Stefan Noesen and Rasmus Sandin. The sitting of Sandin was thought to be punitive for some loose play on Thursday, but according to Keefe via SI’s David Alter, the move is more related to salary cap maneuvering to potentially fit goalie Frederik Andersen’s $5 million salary under the cap to get him an NHL start before the end of the season.
Jack Campbell will make his 21st start of the season for Toronto and Jake Allen will be between the pipes for Montreal.
Both Zach Hyman and Riley Nash are both skating but have not been cleared for contact. Keefe indicated that wingers Nick Foligno and Scott Sabourin skated for the second straight day, and Bogosian is progressing from his upper-body injury but is not ready to return to the ice.
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