Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs (+104, 5.5)
Sitting fourth and fifth in the Eastern Conference entering their final game of the regular season, the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to meet in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Toronto hosts the rival Canadiens on Saturday in a preview of that potential playoff matchup. The Maple Leafs hold a 3-1-0 series advantage on Northeast Division rival Montreal, opening the season with a 2-1 road victory and following that with a 6-0 rout on Feb. 9 - also at Montreal. The Canadiens’ only win over the Maple Leafs came at Toronto on Feb. 27, when Max Pacioretty scored twice in a 5-2 triumph, but Toronto responded with a 5-1 home win on April 13.
Montreal is tied with the Boston Bruins for the division lead at 61 points, but Boston has a game in hand. The Maple Leafs are three points clear of sixth place and a point on Saturday would ensure them fifth seed. James Reimer has been excellent for Toronto in April, posting a 2.09 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in 10 starts. Conversely, Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has struggled, allowing three or more goals in five of his last seven starts. Montreal’s fifth-ranked power play remains potent, with goals in three of its last four games and an 11-for-50 mark this month. The Maple Leafs have allowed three power-play goals on 39 times short-handed in April.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, NHL Network (U.S.)
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (28-14-5): Pacioretty leads the team with 13 points this month, while defenseman P.K. Subban has 11 (eight with the man advantage). Rookie Alex Galchenyuk has been held off the scoresheet in just three contests in April - by far the most consistent month of his young career. Galchenyuk has six of his nine career goals in the last 11 games. Fellow rookie Brendan Gallagher scored his 14th goal as part of a third-period comeback in Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Lars Eller has three points in his last two games and a season-high 10 this month. Tomas Plekanec has 13 goals, but none since March 30. Michael Ryder has three assists in his last eight contests.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (26-26-5): With nine goals and 17 points in April, Phil Kessel is carrying Toronto’s offense. Kessel also leads the Maple Leafs in scoring against the Canadiens, with seven points in the previous four games. Kessel skated on a line with Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul on Thursday and the trio combined for two goals - both by Kessel - and five points in a 4-0 win over Florida. Despite the shortened campaign, Kessel’s 32 assists match the second-best total of his career. Defenseman Cody Franson has nine points this month and is one away from tying his career-high of 29 set two seasons ago. Clarke MacArthur’s goal against Florida was his first since March 9.
* Maple Leafs are 5-0 in their last five Saturday games.
* Over is 5-1 in Maple Leafs’ last six home games.
* Over is 6-1-1 in Canadiens’ last eight overall.
1. Reimer is 4-2-0 in seven career starts against Montreal, with two shutouts.
2. The Canadiens have the third-best road record in the conference at 14-7-2, behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders.
3. The last time Toronto and Montreal met in the postseason was the 1979 conference semifinals, when their rosters included future Hall-of-Famers like Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden, Larry Robinson, Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Borje Salming. The Canadiens took that series in a four-game sweep en route to their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup.