Toronto looks to extend home-ice advantage vs. Vegas

Field Level Media

When the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Vegas Golden Knights Thursday night, it will be their 11th home game of the young season.

But the home cooking will end soon. After the Leafs play the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at home, eight of their next nine games will be on the road, where they are 3-3-0.

Toronto improved its home record to 5-2-3 Tuesday with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

Against the Maple Leafs, the Golden Knights will be playing their second game of a four-game trip after starting it with a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

Reilly Smith scored both goals.

On Tuesday, the Maple Leafs welcomed the return of center and captain John Tavares, who missed seven games with a broken finger. He did not score a point in 18 minutes against the Kings; he missed an open goal when he flipped his shot over the net.

"Physically I felt pretty good," Tavares said. "Certainly, I can play a lot better, but good to get back in it. It was a tight hockey game and just great we came through at the end."

The Maple Leafs have won two in a row after losing four of their five previous games. The game Tuesday was hardly a masterpiece, as they needed two goals 30 seconds apart in the third period to put away the struggling Kings. Yet Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock referred to the game as "beautiful."

"We need to go through that," Babcock explained. "We need to figure out who we are and the harder the game is, the better it is for the team. Now, would you like to win by a touchdown and everyone relax and all that? Yeah, but we're not getting anywhere like that. This is important to do. ... We had to grind. It's good for us."

On the injury front, Babcock said he did not know if right winger Zach Hyman would be able to make his season debut Thursday after recovering from knee surgery.

Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly, who led the team with more than 24 minutes of ice time on Tuesday, did not practice on Wednesday.

The Golden Knights' win in Columbus came after two straight losses in which they wasted two-goal leads.

Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland, 37, who made a significant turnover in the loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, was a healthy scratch against the Blue Jackets with Nicolas Hague playing in his place.

"(Hague) deserves a chance to play, and we're trying some different options," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "It's tough. You've got to make tough decisions, and the kid came in and played a real good game."

But Wednesday, the team announced that Hague and center Nicolas Roy had been assigned to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who did not play Saturday because he had the flu, returned Tuesday and stopped 29 shots to earn his ninth win of the season.

Opposing teams have had some success lately with their forechecking against the Golden Knights.

"Our M.O. the last few years has been getting the puck out of the zone really quickly, and we haven't been doing that," Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "There's times when they come in with one forward and they keep the puck in the zone. That just can't happen."

--Field Level Media

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