The Toronto Maple Leafs with their five-game winning streak have eliminated any concerns of winning the North Division, holding a comfortable nine point lead over Edmonton and a magic number of six, but with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season the Leafs still do not know who their opposition will be in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
For weeks it appeared that Toronto was destined to play the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs for the first time since 1979, but the Winnipeg Jets six-game losing streak has put that inevitability in doubt. The Leafs three-game set against the Habs on Monday at the Bell Centre that will go a long way to determining who will finish in fourth spot.
"What I'm focused on is just this week and of course. starting with tonight.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. "There's too many variables at play here. (Montreal) still could finish third or fourth, we could finish first or second. There is a lot of different things at play and a lot of different options for us to who might face in the first round, but all that stuff will get sorted out in time. We're going to focus on tonight's game and then prepare for the next one after that."
Montreal has their final meeting in Ottawa on Wednesday before a pair at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday and Saturday before finishing up against Edmonton next week, while Winnipeg on the surface has an easier schedule with a pair against Ottawa and Vancouver and singles against Calgary and Toronto.
“You got two good teams going out, it's going to be a tight game. We're looking to solidify first place and they're looking to continue making the gap a little bigger on their spot as well." defenseman Jake Muzzin said. "They're obviously talking about 'we could see these guys in the first round as well" so it's going to be a good little tilt.
Jack Campbell will make his 19th start of the season for Toronto, while Jake Allen will be between the pipes for Montreal. Habs coach Dominique Ducharme indicated that goaltender Carey Price will be on the ice on Tuesday after missing the last two weeks with a concussion, but there is no indication of when Price will be able to return to the lineup.
Defenseman Justin Holl is expected to miss Monday’s contest after taking a puck to the face on Saturday, and will be replaced by Timothy Liljegren in the lineup.
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