Here are four things you need to know for tonight's games:
J.T. set to feast on T.O.
A further weakened Toronto Maple Leafs blue-line: It’s music to the years of any opposing player, especially the NHL’s top scorer. Toronto-area native John Tavaresreturns home to face a Maple Leafs outfit that has dropped two straight and will be minus injured blue-liner Stephane Robidas against the New York Islanders. The 38-year-old Robidas, who’s signed for two more years, will have season-ending surgery on his left shoulder, allowing newcomers Tim Erixon and Eric Brewer to remain in the lineup Monday. Toronto forward Nazem Kadri will also sit after he was sent home from Sunday’s practice for arriving late to a team meeting.
Back to Tavares, who has a career-high 32 goals and 70 points, one more than Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The 24-year-old has 20 points in 19 career games versus Toronto, including a goal in two meetings this season. The Islanders have a one-point lead over the Rangers atop the Metropolitan Division but have played three more games.
Eberle ready to heat up?
Jordan Eberle might want to go over game film of Edmonton’s 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 6. The 24-year-old recorded both Oilers goals (see video below) but had only scored five times since in 24 outings before notching his first in 15 starts in Sunday’s 7-4 loss to Carolina. Having Eberle find the net frequently would help Edmonton as it tries to halt a four-game skid in Detroit. The Oilers blew a 3-0 lead to the Hurricanes and got into penalty trouble en route to their 37th loss in 66 games this season.
But that might not be a problem against the Red Wings, who yielded two short-handed goals in a 5-3 loss to Boston on Sunday for the first time since 2004. Detroit has dropped two straight, but is 18-6-7 on home ice.
Monday will be about reversing a couple of bad trends if you’re a Vancouver Canuck. They host the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks hoping not to trail 2-0 for a fifth consecutive start or surrender the first goal, something they’ve done in 17 of their last 21 games. Scoring first is crucial against the Ducks, who are 15-1-4 this season on the road when leading 1-0 and 29-3-6 overall. On a positive note, Vancouver is getting healthier and posted its first win in eight tries over a Pacific team in Saturday’s 3-2 decision in San Jose.
Anaheim has a 13-point lead over the Canucks atop the division and is fresh off a 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Friday. The Ducks, who are 3-0-1 against Vancouver this season, will move fourth-liner Patrick Maroon to the top unit with Ryan Getzlaf. He has no points in his past eight games but two points in four outings versus the Canucks.
Preds pursue top spot
Remember when the Nashville Predators made a trade with Toronto, acquiring Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli on Feb. 15? They were the No. 1 team in the NHL and had the inside track for home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. With 89 points, they open a four-game trip in Arizona, having lost a season-high six straight and been bypassed by Anaheim (91) and Montreal (90) for the league’s best regular-season record. Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders have 88 points in the East, while St. Louis is one point back of the Predators in the Central Division.
Nashville, a respectable 15-12-6 on the road, gave up the first goal for the 11th game in a row in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Winnipeg and hasn’t held a lead the last four games.