William Nylander, John Tavares the focus for the L.A. Kings as Maple Leafs return from lengthy trip

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For Todd McLellan, the concern in facing the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night won’t revolve around just William Nylander.

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The Leafs winger couldn’t be off to a better start and is looking to become the first Leafs player to start a season with a least one point in nine consecutive games.

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Jack Adams holds the Toronto franchise record of nine games, accomplishing the feat 101 years ago when the club was known as the St. Patricks.  

The name of Leafs captain John Tavares also was written in bold as the Kings prepared to face Toronto at Scotiabank Arena in a rare 8 p.m. start.

“The combination of the two, it has been there all season,” Kings coach McLellan said after his club’s optional morning skate. “It’s not like it just showed up two days ago.

“The two of them have found each other, they play off each other really well. Tavares in the faceoff circle, they start with the puck an awful lot. That’s really important for them. They don’t waste a lot of energy chasing it back to their end.”

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Nylander leads the Leafs with 12 points, followed by Tavares with 11. While Auston Matthews and especially Mitch Marner have tried to find consistency, that hasn’t been an issue for Nylander and Tavares. Each has eight even-strength points, most among Leafs.

The power couple has been a driving factor in the Leafs’ 5-2-1 start. 

“It has been really impressive,” veteran Leafs defenceman Mark Giordano said. “Johnny, day in and day out, does the right things on and off the ice. People don’t give him enough credit for how many little plays he makes in tight areas.

“Him and Willie have been great together since I’ve been here, compliment each other and Willie is a game-breaker. He’s one of the guys on our team that we look to, him, (Matthews), who can break open a game or score a big goal at the right moment. It has been fun to watch.”

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Joseph Woll will start in goal for the Leafs. Cam Talbot was the first Kings goalie off the ice in the morning, an indication that he will start.

The Leafs play at home for the first time after going 3-1-1 on their longest trip of the season, while the Kings begin a four-game trip and look to improve on a 3-0-0 road record. 

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The Leafs will be back on the road for a game in Boston on Thursday against the Bruins before returning home for five in a row. As such, coach Sheldon Keefe was taking a bit of a different outlook on the match with the Kings.

“I like to approach a game like today and yesterday’s practice … it’s almost like they’re still part of the road trip,” Keefe said. “You get to come home and get to sleep in our own beds, we get the support of our fans here tonight, but you don’t have enough time to come back from the road and relax and feel like you’re home. Before we know it, we are going to be back on the plane tomorrow. 

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“So it’s really part of the trip. I say that in the sense that I would like to see us take a road-type of mindset to the game in terms of managing the game and having patience and getting off to a good start.”

Recommended from Editorial

The projected Maple Leafs lineup

FORWARDS

Calle Jarnkrok-Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner

Tyler Bertuzzi-John Tavares-William Nylander

Matthew Knies-David Kampf-Max Domi

Noah Gregor-Pontus Holmberg-Ryan Reaves

DEFENCE

Morgan Rielly-TJ Brodie

Mark Giordano-Timothy Liljegren

William Lagesson-John Klingberg

GOAL

Joseph Woll

Ilya Samsonov

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