NHL On Tap: Maple Leafs visit Canadiens with Matthews nearing 50th goal

Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from 12 games on Saturday.

Matthews to continue pursuit of 50th goal for Maple Leafs at Canadiens

The so-called Original Six era ended with 1967 expansion, but even in today’s 32-team NHL, there remains something truly special about a nationally televised “Hockey Night in Canada” game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, the League’s oldest and winningest teams (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SNE, SNO, SNW, TVAS, ESPN+, NHL LIVE). These historic rivals are separated by 41 points heading into their 760th all-time regular-season head-to-head game. But regardless of their divergent Atlantic Division fortunes in 2021-22, there will be huge energy at Bell Centre with the Maple Leafs (40-18-5) gearing for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, cheered on by many of their fans, and the Canadiens (17-37-10) continuing a rebuild for next season and beyond. Toronto center Auston Matthews is closing in on his first 50-goal season in the NHL; the defending Rocket Richard Trophy winner leads the NHL with 46. Montreal will be without injured forwards Brendan Gallagher (lower body), who will miss a week, and Jonathan Drouin (upper body), who is out indefinitely and was placed on injured reserve on Friday. The Canadiens have also lost defenseman Jeff Petry, who is out indefinitely after sustaining a lower-body injury in a 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday. — Dave Stubbs, columnist

Fleury set for Wild debut against Blue Jackets

Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to make his debut for the Minnesota Wild (38-20-4) when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets (32-29-4) at Xcel Energy Center (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, HULU, NHL LIVE). Fleury, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday, is the active NHL goalie leader in regular-season and playoff wins and shutouts, and a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins who also made multiple deep postseason runs during his four seasons with the Vegas Golden Knights. On top of the pressure of his first game with his new team, Fleury will have a tough act to follow after Wild goalie Cam Talbot won consecutive games, including a shutout, following the Fleury trade with a combined 54 saves on 56 shots faced (.964 save percentage). — Pete Jensen, director, senior fantasy editor

Stars trying to move up

The Dallas Stars (36-24-3) have had highs and lows in bunches this season. They’ve had three four-game winning streaks, and one lasting a season-long seven games. But immediately after winning seven straight from Nov. 20-Dec. 6, they lost five in a row from Dec. 8-17, their longest losing streak of the season. They’re now on another roll, looking for their fourth consecutive win when they host the Vancouver Canucks (31-26-9) at American Airlines Center (7 p.m. ET; SN360, SNP, BSSW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE). The Stars hold the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. They’re three points behind the Nashville Predators for the first wild card and are trying to stave off the Vegas Golden Knights, who trail them by a point. Dallas is coming off a 4-3 shootout win at the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, when goalie Scott Wedgewood, making his Stars debut after being acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday, made 44 saves. Let’s see if this winning streak continues. — Tracey Myers, staff writer

Saturday schedule

New York Islanders at Boston Bruins (12:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN1, TVAS, NESN, MSG+, NHL LIVE)

The Bruins (40-19-5) have won three straight and are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games. Forward David Pastrnak‘s hat trick in Boston’s 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday was the 12th of his NHL career. The Islanders (28-25-9) are 4-1-0 in their past five.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings (12:30 p.m. ET; BSDET, BSSUN, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

The Lightning (39-18-6) are 2-6-0 in their past eight and have lost each of their past three games by one goal. The Red Wings (26-31-7) are 2-7-1 in their past 10. 

Chicago Blackhawks at Vegas Golden Knights (3 p.m. ET; ABC, SN, SN1, TVAS, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

Forward Alex DeBrincat has scored 36 goals this season for the Blackhawks (24-32-9), five shy of his NHL career high of 41 in 2018-19. The Golden Knights (35-28-4) defeated the Nashville Predators 6-1 on Thursday after being shut out their previous two games (3-0 at the Minnesota Wild on Monday and 4-0 at the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday).

Vancouver Canucks at Dallas Stars (7 p.m. ET; SN360, SNP, BSSW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

Defenseman Quinn Hughes is one point from tying the career-high 53 he scored in 2019-20, his rookie season for the Canucks, who are 1-2-2 in their past five games. Goalie Jake Oettinger is 22-10-1 with a 2.49 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and one shutout in 35 games (33 starts) this season for the Stars.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SNE, SNO, SNW, TVAS, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

It’s the first of a back to back for the Maple Leafs, who will host the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers on Sunday. Against the Canadiens, defenseman Mark Giordano will play his 1,006th regular-season game, his second for the Maple Leafs since being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Kraken on Sunday.

Florida Panthers at Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET; SN1, CITY, BSFL, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

Forward Jonathan Huberdeau will play in his 655th game for Panthers (43-14-6), and will pass Stephen Weiss for most games played in Florida history. Huberdeau leads the Panthers in scoring with 88 points (21 goals, 67 assists) in 63 games this season. The Senators (23-36-5) are 4-10-0 in their past 14 games.

New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, MSG+, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

Center Nico Hischier has scored eight points (two goals, six assists) in his past four games for the Devils (23-36-5). The Capitals (36-20-10) are 5-2-0 in their past seven after a 4-3 shootout win at the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. 

Carolina Hurricanes at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; BSMW, BSSO, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

This is the first of a three-game road trip for the Hurricanes (42-15-7), who are 1-3-2 in their past six games. Forward David Perron has 14 points (10 goals, four assists) in an eight-game point streak for the Blues (35-19-9).

Columbus Blue Jackets at Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, HULU, NHL LIVE)

It’s the second half of a back to back for the Blue Jackets, who lost 4-3 in a shootout at the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. The Wild have won four in a row to move into second place in the Central Division, one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues.

Edmonton Oilers at Calgary Flames (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, CITY, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

Center Leon Draisaitl has scored 44 goals this season for the Oilers (36-24-5), second to Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (46). The Flames (38-17-8) were 31-0-2 when leading after two periods prior to their 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. 

Seattle Kraken at Los Angeles Kings (10:30 p.m. ET; BSW, ROOT-NW, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

The Kraken (20-38-6) have won two straight and are 3-1-0 in their past four. Center Trevor Moore scored his fourth short-handed goal for the Kings (35-22-9) in their 4-3 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. Moore has scored six short-handed goals in 189 NHL games.

Anaheim Ducks at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCA, BSSC, BSSD, ESPN+, NHL LIVE)

The Ducks (27-28-11) will try to end a season-long eight-game losing streak (0-6-2). Forward Timo Meier has scored 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists) in 59 games this season for the Sharks (28-28-8), four points shy from the career-high 66 (30 goals, 36 assists) he scored in 2018-19.

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