Leafs look to stay hot, visit Blues

The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to build upon their pre-holiday roll when they visit the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

The Leafs have gone 11-2-1 since Nov. 23. They beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 and the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in their final two games before the Christmas break.

“A little too exciting at the end, but a good way to head into the break,” Leafs winger William Nylander said after the Flyers game.

Forward Mitch Marner was happy the team left off on a high note, too.

“You want to go into Christmas with a win under your belt,” Marner said.

The Maple Leafs have persevered through injuries. Defensemen Morgan Rielly, Rasmus Sandin and Jake Muzzin are all on the shelf.

If the Leafs continue alternating starters in goal, Matt Murray will get the call against the Blues. Ilya Samsonov had a tough outing in the victory over Philadelphia and also struggled during a 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Dec. 17.

“The last couple of games, I let in late goals, maybe a Christmas gift from me,” Samsonov said. “But it’s OK. We got the two points (Thursday). This is more important for us. And we’ll get some smiles tomorrow with a couple of days off. We’ll enjoy that.

“Sometimes we have bad days. It’s just life. We’ll be back. I’ll use the break to work (on) my mental side. Maybe do some fishing. Then come back here with new energy, new power.”

The Blues finished their pre-Christmas schedule with a 3-1-1 road trip, winning games at Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver before losing at Seattle and suffering a 5-4 shootout loss to the Golden Knights in Las Vegas.

“We’ve got to keep climbing,” Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said after the loss to the Golden Knights. “It’s going to be tight and every point matters. That’s frustrating to let this one slip. Not what we want.”

The Blues are still struggling to re-establish the aggressive forechecking pressure that helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2019. They are 11-6-0 against teams currently outside the potential postseason bracket but just 5-10-2 against teams currently in playoff position.

As a result, they are playing catch-up in the Western Conference postseason chase. The Blues come out of the break five points behind the Flames for the final wild-card slot.

“They’ll be an odd team or two that are inconsistent going in,” St. Louis defenseman Justin Faulk told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I would tend to imagine that those teams don’t last very long in the playoffs. So you’ve got to know how your team’s supposed to play. What your identity is, and you’ve got to use the year to build it. And hope you don’t take too long to find it.”

Winger Jordan Kyrou missed the last two games of the Blues’ road trip with an upper-body injury and is questionable for Tuesday’s game. Kyrou, who leads the Blues with 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 31 games, had six goals and three assists during the first three games of the trip.

–Field Level Media