FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

Toronto Sun - - SPORTS -

1 Be de­ter­mined

Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock scoffed, nicely, at the idea that the Avalanche might be more des­per­ate con­sid­er­ing it has lost nine of its past 10. Toronto has won just twice in its past six games, fail­ing mostly to put to­gether a full 60 min­utes. Colorado is in a tight wild­card race in the West, while the Leafs have the Bos­ton Bru­ins nip­ping at their heels. “Can they be more des­per­ate than us?” Bab­cock said. “I don’t know about that. You know you need the points, you need that feel­ing where you’re float­ing in­stead of grind­ing. You have to earn it.”

2 No rust here?

Fred­erik An­der­sen has been a spec­ta­tor of Leafs games since Dec. 22, but has prac­tised a hand­ful of times in com­ing back from a groin in­jury. The goal­tender didn’t think he would have much catch­ing up to do, never mind that he also has to get past a brief ill­ness. “I think once I get my en­ergy back from this flu, I’m sure I will feel re­ally re­freshed and so hope­fully that is some­thing that is go­ing to ben­e­fit us,” An­der­sen said. Against Colorado in his ca­reer, An­der­sen is 2-2-0 with a .938 save per­cent­age and a 1.77 goals-against av­er­age.

3 Stop the top

Colorado’s No. 1 line of Nathan MacKin­non be­tween Gabriel Lan­deskog and Mikko Ran­ta­nen is among the most dan­ger­ous in hockey, with Ran­ta­nen and MacKin­non in the top five in NHL scor­ing through Satur­day. The Avs aren’t deep, so con­tain the big men and the Leafs give them­selves a bet­ter shot. “We just have to make sure we are above them and they have to re­ally earn what they’re go­ing to get,” Leafs cen­tre John Tavares said. “Ex­tremely tal­ented. It will be a tough matchup.”

4 Road con­sid­er­a­tions

The Avalanche has been a pro­lific club on the road, scor­ing 86 goals in 25 games — the most in the NHL be­fore games on Sun­day. Colorado also has given up 86 on the road, and though the Leafs have lit­tle in­ter­est in get­ting in a track meet, they have the horses to keep pace if the game veers that way. The Leafs, in 23 home games, have scored 74 goals and given up 59. Toronto is 6-12-1 when the op­po­nent scores first; Colorado is 6-14-6.

5 Penalty for your thoughts

Leafs Na­tion feels some frus­tra­tion when the topic of penal­ties arises, but some pos­i­tive feel­ings could arise with the Avs in town. As the Leafs con­tinue to wind their way out of power-play woes — when they had a pow­er­play goal against Bos­ton on Satur­day, it was their first in six games — Colorado ar­rives with the du­bi­ous dis­tinc­tion of be­ing shorthanded 95 times on the road, eas­ily the most in the NHL. Still, Toronto has had just 55 power plays at home, one more than the Dal­las Stars, who have the fewest.

Colorado’s Nathan MacKin­non is part of one of the most dan­ger­ous lines in hockey.

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