Vancouver Sun


Garret Sparks will be in the Maple Leafs’ net today as Toronto (2611-2) hosts Minnesota (18-17-3). Here’s what else to watch, writes Terry Koshan.


1. Stop Staal The Wild’s Eric Staal has 25 points in 37 games and continues to enjoy a resurgence, to an extent, after his career hit the skids in a brief tenure with the New York Rangers in 2015-16. Staal used to light up the Leafs during his Carolina days, with 51 points in 46 career games versus Toronto.

2. Rest time is over The Leafs want to start 2019 properly as January offers a favourable schedule. Playing with proper structure and effort from the opening faceoff would put them in the right direction. It’s the first of seven home games in the month, with just three on the road. “I would like to think we’re excited to get back at it with a pretty good schedule ahead of us,” centre John Tavares said.

3. Evening out At five on five, the Leafs have 100 goals for and 72 against; the Wild have 70 for and 72 against. The Leafs’ talent has a chance to outshine the group that Minnesota will ice.

4. A Wild run Minnesota arrives in Toronto trying to put a difficult month of December firmly in the past. Starting with a loss on Dec. 1 at home against the Leafs, the Wild went 4-8-1 and scored just 10 goals in its past seven games. “I don’t really care if you’re positive or frustrated, whatever gets you going,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said on Wednesday. “At the end, it’s the work ethic that gets you through it individual­ly and as a team. It’s all about that.”


Long memories?

Despite losing to the Leafs just more than a month ago, Minnesota was the better team in St. Paul, limiting Toronto to 23 shots on goal, tied for the second-fewest they had in a game this season. The Leafs were opportunis­tic with five goals and know they will have to fight for each inch. “They’re a really good team defensivel­y, they don’t give you much space,” Leafs centre Auston Matthews said. “They just stay above you the whole night.”

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