Do you feel refreshed? Rejuvenated? Renewed? — I hope you do, but more than likely you don’t. You probably didn’t get a nearly week-long break where you jet set to a fabulous mini-vacation. However, most of the Nashville Predators did get that much deserved vacation (minus Roman Josi who was busy being an All-Star in St. Louis). Here’s hoping they feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and renewed, because now is when it gets serious.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are headed south to meet the Predators for the first game post-break Monday night. The two teams have had a strikingly similar year thus far — a disappointing one.
Both teams had Stanley Cup expectations riding on them and their superstar core. Both teams have had a disappointing season. Both teams fired their head coaches during the season. Both teams are hungry for success and to prove the doubters wrong. Monday’s game should be a fight.
The Leafs and the Preds are currently both on the outside of the Wild Card looking in; the Leafs by four points and the Preds by six.
Sunday, the Predators announced they’d recalled forwards Colton Sissons and Yakov Trenin and defender Jarred Tinordi. Sissons missed 10 games with a lower-body injury he suffered Dec. 27. He spend the break practicing with the Milwaukee Admirals on a conditioning assignment. Assuming he plays Monday night, which is expected, this will be his first game under head coach John Hynes.
Following practice Sunday, the Preds’ Brooks Bratten tweeted quotes from the team, further driving home the point that the team is hungry for success.
Bratten quoted Nick Bonino as saying the team feels like the playoffs begin Monday. He also spoke with Matt Duchene and quoted him as saying he still believes the Preds are the best team, but just have to prove it.
He also tweeted the lines from Sunday’s practice. They’re subject to change considering Sissons’ impending return to the lineup.
#Preds practice rushes:— Brooks Bratten (@brooksbratten) January 26, 2020
Sissons (IR), Trenin
The Predators went into the All-Star break on a positive note with a win, beating the Buffalo Sabres 2-1.
Captain Roman Josi leads the team in points (48) and assists (34) and is second in scoring (14). He also went into the break on a two-game point streak. The Preds’ leading scorer, Filip Forsberg (16), went into the break on a cold streak. He hasn’t earned a point in the last two games, but will certainly be one to watch Monday night. Preds fans (and the Leafs, too) will also want to keep an eye on Matt Duchene and Nick Bonino, who both expressed a desire to win during Sunday’s practice.
The Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs were represented at All-Star Weekend by Mitch Marner and Frederik Andersen. Auston Matthews was also in attendance, but opted not to play due to a reported ‘minor wrist injury.’ During media availabilities he said he hoped to be ready to play after the break. According to TSN reporter Mark Masters, Matthews did participate in practice Sunday.
Masters tweeted the line combinations from practice:
Lines at Leafs practice— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 26, 2020
Hyman - Matthews - Marner
Kerfoot - Tavares - Nylander
Johnsson - Engvall - Kapanen
Moore - Gauthier - Spezza
Timashov practising as a D with Marincin
Leafs D at practice— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) January 26, 2020
Muzzin * - Holl
Dermott - Barrie
Sandin ** - Ceci
* Jake set to return to line-up for first time since foot fracture on Dec. 27
** Rasmus set to play 10th NHL game this season
The Leafs went into the All Star break on a two-game losing streak. They lost their last game to Chicago 6-2. They’ve only won three of eight games played in January, compared to the Preds’ four of nine.
The Preds and their fans will undoubtedly have their eyes on Toronto’s ‘big four.’ Auston Matthews leads the Leafs in goals (34) and points (57) and Mitch Marner leads the team in assists (34) and is second in points (47). William Nylander is third on the team in points (43) and second in goals (22) and is on a four-game point streak, while team captain John Tavares is third in goals (18) and had been on a three-game point streak before not recording a point in the Leafs’ loss to Chicago Jan. 18.
Reasons to watch
The second half of the season is when ‘stuff’ gets real. It’s make or break for both of these teams. Will they rise to the occasion or will they crumble beneath the pressure? Monday will be the first indication of which way the remainder of the ‘19-’20 season will go.
When the teams hit the ice Monday night, there will be less than a month until the dreaded/highly anticipated trade deadline. Every game from now until then will be a deciding factor in whether the team’s front offices decide to buy or sell at the trade deadline.
You also can’t forget the return of Colton Sissons. He is beloved by the Smashville faithful and his return will undoubtedly bring excitement.
Soundtrack to the game
OH MY GOD THEY’RE BACK AGAIN! Break is over, time to shine.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Radio: 102.5 The Game