In a clash of Original Six Eastern Conference heavyweights, the Maple Leafs look to extend their nine-game points streak when they take on the New York Rangers for the second time in a week (7:00 p.m. EST, TSN4).

The Leafs, who now sit second in the NHL in goals per game (3.64), are coming in off their most dominant performance of the season with a 7-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Without the services of Auston Matthews due to illness, Sheldon Keefe was forced to juggle his forward lines, and between the heightened urgency inspired by Matthews’ absence and the new combinations, it paid immediate dividends. Keefe leaned into the former London Knights connection by pairing Max Domi with Mitch Marner, and the Knies–Domi–Marner line combined for three goals to go along with depth contributions from Bobby McMann and Noah Gregor as well as a power-play goal from John Tavares.

Tonight, with their top-line center returning, the Leafs will revert to their previous top-six line combinations as Knies and Nylander will rejoin Matthews. But, in addition to building on the momentum of the offensive momentum of their five-goal comeback in the third period of Columbus, the big victory over Pittsburgh should have provided some data on those new combinations which the coaching staff could perhaps circle back to in the case of injuries or staleness offensively.

The Leafs will field their healthiest lineup in almost two months for tonight’s game. TJ Brodie, who missed the last game due to flu, is expected to return tonight. Timothy Liljegren also returned to the lineup in the previous game against the Penguins — and led the defense in TOI at just above 20 minutes — after recovering from a high-ankle sprain that kept him on the shelf for six weeks.

As the Leafs inch closer to full health at a time when they’re playing good hockey, it’s both an encouraging development and one that can bring challenges in terms of integrating the returning players while keeping the positive momentum rolling. The team has gotten simple but effective minutes from the likes of Simon Benoit, who has now likely been forced out of the lineup due to the numbers game (assuming the Leafs run 12/6).

The Rangers have won back-to-back games since losing 7-3 to the Maple Leafs last week. Their response to the loss was to allow just two goals in their two wins against Anaheim and Boston. Igor Shesterkin, who conceded seven goals last week against the Maple Leafs, will start in goal for the Rangers looking to avenge a tough game vs. Toronto. Good teams (and elite players) often bring their best against opponents that beat up on them in the last meeting, so the Leafs need to be prepared for a Rangers team that is sharper and hungrier than the one they faced at MSG last week.

In the other net, Martin Jones is the projected starter for the Leafs as he seeks to build off his win over the Rangers last week as well as his shutout win against the Penguins on Saturday. A 38-save effort against Pittsburgh bumped his record up to 3-0-0 and his save percentage all the way up to .949.

Discipline is going to be a key battleground tonight. The Rangers are currently ranked third in the league with a power-play success rate of 29.8% and have scored 10 power-play goals in their last 10 games. The Leafs’ power play has scored in five straight and currently sits at 25% for the season.

Last but not least, congratulations to John Tavares, who will receive a much-deserved moment in the spotlight tonight with a ceremony to honour his 1,000th career point.

Game Day Quotes

John Tavares on embracing his milestone moment: 

It’s really special to have my family be a part of a milestone like this. There is so much behind the scenes throughout the course of my career and in my life, really: my parents, my siblings, my wife, my three kids, and everything they have sacrificed and contributed to me being at my best. The chance to share it with them really means a lot.

Sheldon Keefe on John Tavares’ milestone: 

He does a lot of his best work behind the scenes. At times, you take it for granted. When you have a milestone like this with getting to 1,000 points, it is a chance to really appreciate him for the career that he has had.

I think he has a lot of great hockey ahead here still. It is a credit to the consistency that he has had throughout his career, the consistency of his habits away from the rink, and how he adapts his training and his practices. I believe it allows him to have longevity with the consistency of his production.

Keefe on the challenge the Rangers present: 

The greatest challenge is that we played them last week and we had a good night in their building. They’re a great team that has had a good season and has been a good team in the league for a number of years for good reason. You would expect them to bounce back tonight. They have bounced back and played very well since we played them. We will expect them to be at their best.

In terms of the challenges, they have great goaltending. Their special teams, when you combine their power play and penalty kill, are among the best in the league. They have some very dangerous players that dominate play when they are out there.

We have lots to manage. Our hope would be that we can get another good start tonight. We had a good start the other day (vs. Pittsburgh). We had a good start in New York. We will try to take a hold on the game early.

Keefe on what makes the Rangers’ power play so dangerous: 

They have different elements from shooters and passers to net-front presence. They have great intelligence with how they go about it.

Adam Fox seems to make the right decisions at the right time and execute the plays. It doesn’t really stop from there.

If you make one mistake with your stick positioning or you fail to get a puck cleared, they make you pay for it. They spend as much time as anyone in the league in the actual zone. Once they get the puck, it is tough to get it back from them.

Faceoffs are important. Clears and exits are important, and how you manage your blue line coming back into the zone. Those are the types of things that you focus on when you are playing against them. If you are defending too much in your zone, you are asking for trouble.

Matthew Knies on whether Tavares’ kids understand the meaning of their dad’s ceremony tonight: 

They’re obviously very young, but I think they’ve got a pretty good idea that their dad is a superstar.

Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette on what his team needs to clean up from the first meeting against the Leafs:

The first period. In the second period, we were really good. It was a tale of two periods. They held a one-goal lead after two. They scored them all in the first. We caught up in the second. They were in a position to win it in the third, and that quick power-play goal they scored zapped it a little bit. In the first period, we weren’t very good.

Head-to-Head Stats: Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#23 Matthew Knies – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#89 Nick Robertson – #11 Max Domi – #19 Calle Jarnkrok
#74 Bobby McMann – #64 David Kampf – #18 Noah Gregor

#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#22 Jake McCabe – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#85 William Lagesson – #25 Conor Timmins

Starter: #31 Martin Jones
#35 Ilya Samsonov

Scratched: Simon Benoit, Maxime Lajoie
Injured: John Klingberg, Mark Giordano, Joseph Woll, Ryan Reaves

New York Rangers Projected Lines

#20 Chris Kreider – #93 Mika Zibanejad – #17 Blake Wheeler
#10 Artemi Panarin – #16 Vincent Trochek – #13 Alexis Lafreniere
#50 Will Cuylle – #12 Nick Bonino – #22 Jonny Brodzinski
#26 Jimmy Vesey – #21 Barclay Goodrow – #71 Tyler Pitlick

#56 Ryan Lindgren – #23 Adam Fox
#79 K’Andre Miller – #6 Jacob Trouba
#56 Erik Gustafsson – #4 Braden Schneider

Starter: #31 Igor Shesterkin
#32 Jonathan Quick

Injured/Out: Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil