TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks daily with news and notes about the Maple Leafs. The staff had limited media availability on Thursday afternoon at the Prudential Center. The New Jersey Devils held a full day of skateboarding before tonight's game.
Voting on the new "Last Men In" initiative to determine NHL All-Star Games finalists ends Thursday night and the Morgan Rielly received a big boost in the last 24 hours in the form of several high-end endorsement videos from teammates, including Nazem Kadri, Auston Matthews, Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner who were posted on social networks.
The initiative was led by the de facto campaign manager Jake Gardiner.
"He's probably one of the league's most deserving," Gardiner said, "just based on their numbers. So we shot some guys last night and we had fun with it." Mitch sort of followed me and we had some good ideas and just built from there. "
The videos are a heartfelt appeal to the public to elect the 24-year-old to their first all-star game. Rielly leads all NHL defenders in goals (13) and is second behind veteran San Jose Sharks Brent Burns in points with 45.
"The way he played this year, it's a shame he has not made or has been called yet," said Marleau, who admitted that he needed two shots to nail his video. "You saw what he did on the ice. It's quite remarkable."
Rielly is competing with Boston's Patrice BergeronBuffalo Jeff SkinnerDetroit Dylan LarkinFlorida Aleksander BarkovFrom Montreal Shea WeberOttawa Mark Stone and Tampa Bay's Brayden Point to the last place outside the Atlantic Division.
The results are expected to be announced on Friday.
Demons of defense Damon Severson will be well aware of Zach Hyman when the brave left wing is on the ice tonight. Hyman is returning to Toronto for the first time since suffering an ankle injury at a game in New Jersey on December 18.
"He's a good inspector, so it presses us," said Severson. "He makes us take decisions much faster than maybe other guys and he finishes when we get back.He does not let us beat him on the ice.As a defender, I try to jump in the rush as fast as I can but he will finish his check and make sure he will not hit the ice to make it effective that way, for sure. "
Off with a lower body injury since Dec. 23, Devils has left the wing Taylor Hall will be in eighth consecutive game on Thursday.
"He's definitely moving in the right direction and making good progress," coach John Hynes said. "It's a situation where we had to make sure we knew what was happening to him before you could start rehab and make it happen." There is a chance, sure enough, he's back before the interval of stars, but I think now we just have to evaluate him every day and see where he is. It's a situation in which, when he goes back to skating, it will not be long before he plays. "
Goalkeeper injured Mackenzie Blackwood (lower body) and wing Marcus Johansson (upper body) both skated on Thursday morning, but did not play against the Leafs. Cory Schneider also skated and, for Hynes, took pictures for the first time since he was injured.
Despite their difficulties this season, the Devils have been very effective in shorthanded situations, killing 85.3% of the power plays to be second in the NHL in that department. Alain Nasreddine, assistant to Hynes Credit, has worked with the group in recent seasons and has added a new adjustment this year.
"We've had a bit more freedom this year just to push when we feel the need," said Severson. "We have some guys who can skate on the penalty spot and we are creating some offense with the penalty, which is fundamental because when you simply play the puck every time it is easy and the power play is able to save energy … when the we force them to check and get tired and they have to change, that makes it harder. "
The Devils have killed 38 of the 40 power games in the last 12 games
Toronto, meanwhile, is struggling to produce much in the power game, going just 1 to 15 in the last seven games. Mike Babcock, a Leafs coach, shuffled his groups in training Wednesday, taking Matthews to the second unit where he met. William Nylander while giving Kasperi Kapanen a chance with the first unit quarterbacked by Marner.
Despite beating New Jersey 13-3 in two games this season, Toronto are 0-7 in the men's advantage against Devils.
Michael Hutchinson makes your fourth straight start to the Leafs while Keith Kinkaid is back for the Devils after allowing five goals in 33 shots against the Sabers on Tuesday in Buffalo.
"He has to be a little quieter on the net and that's something we talked to him about," Hynes said of Kinkaid. "He is a highly athletic, highly competitive goalkeeper, so just understand that less is sometimes more.You have to have that athleticism and competitiveness in a focused and structured way.What we would like him to do is eliminate the disks he passed through some of the goals that happened were not his fault, but we would like him to eliminate the leaked goals. "
Kinkaid allowed 11 goals in 53 pitches (.792 economy) in a pair of losses to the Leafs this season.
Since early December, Kinkaid is 4-6-2 with a saving percentage of .875.
Leafs Line Designed for Thursday's game: