The Toronto Maple Leafs are vying for their fourth straight win when they wrap up their road trip with a visit to the Nashville Predators on Saturday.
The Maple Leafs are 3-1-0 thus far on the five-game trip after a 4-1 victory against the Dallas Stars on Thursday. It was their fifth win in seven games, their best start to a season since the 2020-21 campaign.
“It starts with our first period,” defenseman Morgan Rielly said after the game Thursday. “If you look at our previous games up until this point, I don’t think we started the way that we want to. So I think that was probably the biggest difference. If we’re able to keep this going with our starts, as opposed to playing from behind, it will put us in a good spot.”
William Nylander and captain John Tavares have been leading the way offensively for Toronto, tied for the team lead with 11 points to rank among the top 10 in the NHL. Each brings a seven-game point streak into Saturday’s tilt, with Nylander owning five goals and six assists during that stretch while Tavares has four goals and seven assists.
Auston Matthews leads the Maple Leafs with seven goals but has just one since notching a hat trick in consecutive games to open the season.
Ilya Samsonov will get the start in goal after rookie Joseph Woll held down the fort in the previous three outings.
It’s been an up-and-down start for the Predators, who are coming off a 3-2 loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. The defeat ended a modest two-game winning streak in which Nashville outscored their opponents 9-2.
The Predators have allowed opponents to score first in three games thus far, all of which have ended in a loss for Nashville. Against the Canucks, they struggled early in each of the first two periods, allowing the Canucks to score within the first five minutes of both.
“We’ve just got to figure out our starts because we’re clawing our way back,” forward Kiefer Sherwood said. “I think these are early lessons in the year that we’re going to make adjustments so that when push comes to shove later on, we have the advantage.”
The Predators’ power play has been clicking for the most part out of the gate, connecting at a 20.7 percent success rate. Nashville had gone 5-for-12 with the man advantage in its previous three games before getting shut out on three opportunities on Tuesday.
That hasn’t stopped coach Andrew Brunette from looking to add a new wrinkle to his top unit. Defenseman Roman Josi, who has typically been the quarterback on a power play unit for most of his career, was working closer to the net at practice Friday while Tyson Barrie worked up top.
“With Roman, he’s a little bit of a hybrid,” Brunette said. “He can do either/or, but we are trying to get some looks early. We’re putting Jos in a little bit of an uncomfortable position, playing the top most of his career. Trying to get him comfortable being lower. … He’s taken the challenge, and he wants to be there and we’re trying to make it work.”