Leafs hope to get a boost in Nashville
After getting off to a great start through their first 10 games, the Toronto Maple Leafs have struggled over the last two weeks and a pair of new injuries isn't likely to help.
Ron Wilson's club will get one player back tonight as Tim Connolly is expected to return to action as the Leafs aim for a third victory in a row over the Nashville Predators.
Toronto recorded a point in eight of its first 10 games, going 7-2-1. However, the Maple Leafs have posted just a 3-4-1 record since and lost for the fourth time in five games on Tuesday with a 3-2 shootout setback to the Coyotes.
Mike Komisarek and Phil Kessel scored third-period goals to force overtime and Ben Scrivens made 33 saves through overtime before giving up a pair of goals in the shootout.
Komisarek scored for the first time in 88 games, while Kessel netted his league-leading 13th goal and 25th point. He has three goals and an assist in his last four games.
Not only did the Maple Leafs lose on Tuesday, but they also saw Mikhail Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur exit with injuries. Grabovski is expected to miss two weeks with a lower-body injury, while MacArthur will sit tonight with an upper-body issue.
With two-thirds of Toronto's second line out, that makes the return of Connolly crucial. He has missed the past four games due to an upper-body ailment and has been held to six games this season because of injury.
Connolly said on Wednesday that the Maple Leafs' offense shouldn't struggle despite the injuries.
"I think as a team we have been scoring enough goals to win hockey games," said Connolly. "I think we have to focus on doing all the little things and those are the things that will add up to winning hockey games."
Toronto recorded a 5-4 home win over Nashville in the lone meeting last year, but the Predators are 6-5-0 with a tie all-time versus the Maple Leafs. The Preds are also 2-1 in the three meetings at home against the Leafs in club history.
Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson will face his former club tonight for the first time. The 24-year-old posted 50 points in two seasons with the Predators.
Nashville is 6-1-2 in its last nine games and is coming off Tuesday's thrilling 3-1 victory over the Capitals. All four goals came in the game's final five minutes, with Colin Wilson scoring the game-winner with 24.3 seconds left in regulation.
Shea Weber scored just five seconds later into an open net to set a franchise record for the fastest two goals. The original record was eight seconds.
"There's a lot of energy on this club and we create our chances," said Wilson. "We forecheck real good and cause turnovers and that will help you win all the time."
Weber and Martin Erat finished with a goal and an assist each and Pekka Rinne made 39 saves to match a season high. Weber has six points in his last five games, while Erat has totaled seven points in eight games since retuning from injury.
Nashville center David Legwand has missed the last three games with an upper- body injury and is doubtful for tonight.