Perhaps the only bright spot that emerged from last season for New York Islanders was the chance to select John Tavares(notes). The Toronto Maple Leafs won’t even get a high draft pick with a terrible finish.
Toronto-area native Tavares and the Islanders look to end a seven-game road trip on high note as they face the lowly Maple Leafs on Monday night.
A league-low 61 points last season put New York in position to draft Tavares with the No. 1 overall pick. The 19-year-old center, born in Mississauga, Ontario - approximately 18 miles from Toronto - will make his Air Canada Centre debut.
Tavares has nine goals and 10 assists in 23 games, and has the Islanders (8-8-7) thinking they can end a three-season playoff drought.
The Maple Leafs (4-11-6) have an NHL-low 14 points, but continuing on that pace wouldn’t give them a shot at drafting a first-round talent.
The Maple Leafs are coming off their second home win, 2-1 in a shootout over Washington on Saturday night. Toronto entered the matchup 1-6-2 at Air Canada Centre.
New York has lost two straight following a 2-0-2 start to the seven-game trip, its longest of the season. The Islanders have dropped consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Nov. 4-6.
New York lost 4-1 to St. Louis on Saturday night after falling 3-2 to Minnesota the previous evening.
Tavares was held off the scoresheet in each contest after posting four goals and four assists during a five-game point streak.
Jeff Tambellini(notes) was back on the ice for New York on Saturday after being scratched in the previous four games, but was held without a point for the fourth time in five contests. The left wing has not scored a goal in 13 career games against the Maple Leafs.
Toronto went 3-1-0 versus the Islanders last season and has gone 18-4-1 with one tie in its last 24 home games against them. The Maple Leafs are also coming off a much-needed confidence boost at home, getting a strong effort from goaltender Vesa Toskala(notes) as they snapped a five-game losing streak.
Toronto bounced back to win in a tiebreaker after a 6-5 shootout loss at Carolina on Thursday night, when it allowed the tying goal in the final seconds of the third period.
Toskala, who has been criticized for his early season performance, had his best effort of 2009-10. He made 31 saves and turned away both Capitals opportunities in the shootout.
Toskala, though, gave up four goals in each of his last two contests against New York.