Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the four games Monday.
Panthers visit New York with momentum
A recent topic of conversation around NHL headquarters in New York is why this season has been a struggle for the Florida Panthers (23-20-5) after they set team records of 58 wins and 122 points in 2021-22. Exactly why has been hard to pinpoint, but the way the Panthers are playing entering Monday at the New York Rangers (7 pm ET: TVAS, MSG, BSFLX, ESPN+, SN NOW) all theories might be rendered moot by April. Florida takes a five-game point streak (4-0-1) and a 7-2-1 run into Madison Square Garden that has it three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. One big reason behind the surge — a combined 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) from the top line in seven games since. Anton Lundell was moved to left wing with center Alexander Barkov and right wing Sam Reinhart. The Rangers (25-14-7) have scored seven goals in their past four games (2-2-0), are 1-for-19 on the power play in their past six and are still trying to figure out consistent line combinations. — Jon Lane, staff writer
Gaudreau returns to Calgary
What kind of reception will Johnny Gaudreau get at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Monday? It certainly will be interesting and probably a mixed emotional reaction from the Calgary Flames fans when the home team welcomes Gaudreau and his new team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, for their only visit of the season (9:30 pm ET; ESPN+, HULU, SN1, SNW, TVAS, SN NOW). Gaudreau left the Flames (22-16-9) as an unrestricted free agent, signing a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 13. The Calgary fan reaction at the time did not seem favorable to the forward. who had every right to do what he did as a UFA. He delivered in a massive way for the Flames, 609 points (210 goals, 399 assists) in 602 regular season games and 33 points (11 goals, 22 assists) in 42 playoff games from 2014-22. He has delivered for the Blue Jackets (14-30-2) too, leading them with 44 points (13 goals, 31 assists) in 46 games while maintaining that leaving Calgary was not easy for him even if people don’t want to believe. him. But the Flames have bigger things to think about than Gaudreau’s return. They’re trying to maintain their place in the playoff race in the Pacific Division and Western Conference. A 6-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday was big. They have to follow it up with another win against the Blue Jackets, whose 30 points are last in the NHL. — Dan Rosen, senior writer
Home could get sweeter for the Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are 17-3-4 at Scotiabank Arena this season. It’s a nice little record, and one they’d like to add to when they begin a five-game homestand against the New York Islanders (23-20-5) on Monday (7 pm ET; SN, MSGSN, ESPN+, SN NOW ). The Maple Leafs (28-11-8) are Top 10 in the NHL in several categories at home, including goals per game (3.50, seventh), goals-against per game (2.38, third) and the power play (27.8 percent, fifth). Forward Mitchell Marner (29 points; eight goals, 21 assists) will try to extend his Maple Leafs-record point streak on home ice to 21 games, the longest by any player since Joe Sakic’s 23 for the 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche. Goalie Ilya Samsonov is 12-0-1 with a 1.61 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and two shutouts at Scotiabank Arena, where forward William Nylander has scored 32 (14 goals, 18 assists) of his 52 points (24 goals, 28 assists). The Maple Leafs have remained consistent this season, especially at home. — Tracey Myers, staff writer
Florida Panthers at New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET: TVAS, MSG, BSFLX, ESPN+, SN NOW)
Florida forward Sam Bennett and defenseman Aaron Ekblad will play. Each left a 5-3 win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday with what coach Paul Maurice said was related to fatigue. Goalie Alex Lyon will start his third consecutive game for the Panthers. Spencer Knight was recalled from Charlotte of the American Hockey League and Sergei Bobrovsky remains sidelined with a lower-body injury. The Rangers have earned points in five straight home games (4-0-1) and 12 of their past 13 (9-1-3) against the Panthers. Artemi Panarin on an 11-game point streak (five goals, 16 assists).
New York Islanders at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; SN, MSGSN, ESPN+)
The Islanders have lost four in a row (0-2-2) and eight of nine (1-5-3) and are 3-for-54 on the power play in their past 20 games while allowing three shorthanded goals. The Maple Leafs have held onto second place in the Atlantic Division since Nov. 12. Mark Giordano scored 53 seconds into a 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, becoming the second Toronto defenseman to score an opening-minute goal in 25 years. Morgan Rielly has done it twice (49 seconds on March 27, 2022; 58 seconds on April 4, 2021).
Buffalo Sabers at Dallas Stars (8:30 p.m. ET; BSSW, MSG-B, ESPN+, SN NOW)
Sabers forward Tage Thompson (tied for third with 32 goals) and Stars forward Jason Robertson (31 goals, fifth) are two of the top-five goal scorers in the NHL. Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin has back-to-back two-assist games and 15 multipoint games this season for Buffalo (23-19-3). Dallas (28-13-7) has back-to-back shutout wins — 4-0 at the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, 4-0 at home against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday — and three in four games, two from Jake Oettinger (1.35 GAA, .954 save percentage).
Columbus Blue Jackets at Calgary Flames (9:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, HULU, SN1, SNW, TVAS, SN NOW)
Gaudreau’s return will highlight the night, but the Flames trying to build on their win against the Lightning will matter most to the home team. They lost 3-1 at Columbus on Dec. 9, when Gaudreau was held off the score sheet. Calgary has outshot its opponent in seven straight games. The Blue Jackets ended a three-game losing streak with a 5-3 win at home against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, when Gaudreau had a goal and an assist.