Matthews, Nylander hunt down milestones as Maple Leafs host desperate Penguins

Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
19 days ago
When the Maple Leafs hosted the Capitals nearly two weeks ago, nobody would’ve thought that game would have had playoff implications, but Washington’s hot streak changed things. Tonight, after winning four consecutive games and picking up points in eight of their last 10, Pittsburgh enters Toronto in the same boat. If you looked at this game on the schedule over a month ago, you would’ve thought this was just another game on the NHL schedule near the end of the season. But what Sidney Crosby and the Penguins have been able to do lately has leapfrogged them into the playoff conversation, sitting one point back of the Detroit Red Wings for the final wild-card spot with 83 points.
However, it’s not just the Penguins playing for something tonight. Although they will likely be the more desperate team, fighting for their playoff lives with five games to go, Toronto is still playing for home-ice advantage in the first round, given they’re just five points back of Florida with two games in hand.
Of course, the win is crucial for the Maple Leafs, but two players, in particular, are chasing milestones as the season is in its final stretch. Auston Matthews reached the 100-point mark on the weekend, becoming the seventh USA-born player with multiple 100-point campaigns, after scoring his 64th goal this season against Montreal. With another goal in his back pocket, Matthews is now six shy of 70 and two from breaking Alex Ovechkin’s salary cap era record with 65.
The other player chasing down a milestone is William Nylander. With an assist on Matthew Knies’ goal on Saturday night, the 27-year-old sits four points shy of recording his first 100-point season. If he’s able to achieve this milestone in the final six games of the regular season, Nylander would become just the fourth player in franchise history, joining Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour, and Auston Matthews, to record 100 points and could join his teammate Matthews as the first Maple Leafs duo to each score 100 points in the season for the first time in Toronto Maple Leafs history.

Pregame details:

Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Auston Matthews –  Max Domi
Bobby McMann – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Matthew Knies – Pontus Holmberg – William Nylander
Connor Dewar – David Kampf – Ryan Reaves
Morgan Rielly – Ilya Lyubushkin
Simon Benoit – Jake McCabe
Mark Giordano – T.J. Brodie

Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup:

Drew O’Connor – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Michael Bunting – Evgeni Malkin – Rickard Rakell
Reilly Smith – Lars Eller – Valtteri Puustinen
Emil Bemstrom – Jeff Carter – Jesse Puljujarvi
Pierre-Oliver Joseph – Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson – Erik Karlsson
Ryan Shea – Jake St. Ivany

Projected goalies:

Ilya Samsonov (TOR) vs Alex Nedeljkovic (PIT)
After getting the starting nod against the Montreal Canadiens on the weekend, Ilya Samsonov was the first goalie off the ice this morning, according to David Alter, and is projected to be the starter against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in the first half of their back-to-back.


Sportsnet, 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)
(Projected lineups from dailyfaceoff.com)

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