Maple Leafs-Kings Preview
Secure in his position and having experienced his first win with Toronto, Peter Horachek will try to lead the Maple Leafs to more victories during another road-heavy stretch.
That will begin with a visit to the slumping Los Angeles Kings, who are expected to play without two of their top goal scorers in Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli on Monday night.
Toronto president Brendan Shanahan said Friday that Horachek will remain interim coach for the rest of the season. The Maple Leafs (22-17-3) followed with a 5-2 home victory over Columbus that night in his second game since taking over for the fired Randy Carlyle.
James van Riemsdyk concluded his team’s four-goal outburst in the opening period, finishing with two goals and an assist. The Maple Leafs gave up 20 shots, their second-lowest total of the season, and outshot the Blue Jackets 17-8 in the first 20 minutes.
"I’m going to have to push them to do it again. I’m going to have to continue to prod and push," Horachek said. "When you can have some success like tonight, I think the guys feel good about themselves. We need that. They have to know that’s that how we want to play."
Toronto plays nine of its next 11 on the road, where it’s dropped six of eight. That begins with a four-game trip that includes three stops in California.
The Maple Leafs will try for a fourth consecutive win in Los Angeles as they look to send the Kings (19-13-10) to a season high-tying fourth straight defeat.
Los Angeles has gone 0-1-2 to open a season-high seven-game homestand, and a 5-4 shootout defeat to Winnipeg on Saturday was the club’s fifth loss in six contests overall. The Kings rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to take a lead in the third period but gave up the tying goal with 5:56 left in regulation.
They’ve allowed 15 non-shootout goals in their last three games.
"I feel like a broken record here, but everyone has to step up, myself included. We all have to take a little more ownership in our game," defenseman Alec Martinez said. "If we keep on digging ourselves in a hole in the first period like we’ve been and giving up as many goals as we’ve been, it’s going to be pretty difficult on us."
The Kings have a minus-6 goal differential in the first period of their last six games, leaving them at minus-7 in the opening 20 minutes for the season – among the worst marks in the league.
Making matters worse, Pearson broke his left leg Saturday and is out indefinitely. Fellow 12-goal scorer Toffoli is also sidelined indefinitely due to a bout with mononucleosis.
The Kings lost 4-3 in a shootout to Toronto on Dec. 14. They rallied from a 2-0 deficit and went ahead in the third before van Riemsdyk scored with 11:11 left.
"We have to play better defensively than we played them (in Toronto)," Horachek said. "In their building, it’s going to be difficult."
The Maple Leafs, though, rallied for a 3-2 win in their most recent trip to Los Angeles on March 13 with van Riemsdyk assisting on the tiebreaking short-handed goal. He has three goals and three assists in seven career matchups.
The Kings’ Marian Gaborik has 12 goals and five assists in his last 10 games against Toronto.