Game Day: Maple Leafs at Avalanche

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS AT COLORADO AVALANCHE

Friday, 9 p.m., Pepsi Center

TV: Sportsnet Ontario: RADIO: TSN 1050

THE BIG MATCHUP

LW James van Riemsdyk vs. C Nathan MacKinnon

Van Riemsdyk, the James Bond of the Leafs’ power play, goes up against one of the hottest penalty killing units in the league. The Avs defused four at home against the Coyotes on Wednesday, making them 27-for-27 the past nine games. MacKinnon, a first overall draft at forward before Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews stole the show, has been doing great work in a lesser-known market.

FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

Av nots
Colorado hoped to become relevant again after last season’s 30th-place finish, but losses this month to bottom-feeders Buffalo and Arizona have sapped spirits again. They certainly would like to forget what happened when the Leafs were here a year ago, a 6-0 drubbing.

Bern-ing sensation?
No firm word on goaltending plans for the Avs, but they do have ex-Leaf Jonathan Bernier on tap, who beat Curtis McElhinney last season as an Anaheim Duck. This also likely will be McElhinney’s start after Frederik Andersen faced the Coyotes.

Back it up
The Arizona-Colorado trip is the last of seven back-to-backs for the Leafs since Nov. 1. In the first six of those situations, the Leafs were 2-4 in the second game. Making this one a tad more difficult will be the switch to a higher altitude. The next back-to-back is Jan. 24-25.

Tale of Tyler
As much as Auston Matthews was the centre of attention in Arizona, this is Tyler Bozak country. The veteran Leaf makes his off-season home here and has plenty of pals from the University of Denver expecting something significant from him.

Get possessive
According to NHL stats, the Leafs commit almost twice as many giveaways as the Avalanche. True or not, it has been an area of concern for Toronto and something they will have to prevent in the late stages of a back-to-back.

AVALANCHE GAME DAY LINES

LW C RW

Gabriel Landeskog Nathan MacKinnon Mikko Rantanen

Sven Andrighetto J.T. Compher Colin Wilson

Matthew Nieto Carl Soderberg Blake Comeau

Tyson Jost Alexander Kerfoot Nail Yakupov

DEFFENCE PAIRINGS

Nikita Zadorov Erik Johnson

Patrik Nemeth Mark Barberio

Samuel Girard Anton Lindholm

GOALIES

Jonathan Bernier

Semyon Varlamov

SICK BAY

D Tyson Barrie

C Vladislav Kamenev

MAPLE LEAFS GAME DAY LINES

LW C RW

Zach Hyman Auston Matthews William Nylander

James van Riemsdyk Tyler Bozak Mitch Marner

Patrick Marleau Nazem Kadri Leo Komarov

Matt Martin Dominic Moore Connor Brown

DEFENCE PAIRINGS

Morgan Rielly Ron Hainsey

Jake Gardiner Connor Carrick

Andreas Borgman Roman Polak

GOALIES

Curtis McElhinney

Frederik Andersen

SICK BAY

D Nikita Zaitsev

F Nikita Soshnikov

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power Play

Toronto 22.4% (5th)

Colorado 18.9% (17th)

Penalty Killing

Toronto 82.5% (12th)

Colorado 83.5% (7th)

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