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The New York Islanders and centre John Tavares face the Boston Bruins on Monday. Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE (Debby Wong/US PRESSWIRE)
The New York Islanders and centre John Tavares face the Boston Bruins on Monday. Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE (Debby Wong/US PRESSWIRE)

Leafs face stiff test in red-hot Tavares Add to ...

It's not hard to see what the test is for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

The New York Islanders are in town, and for the most part, that means shutting down John Tavares and linemates in order to pull out a much needed win.

Easier said that done these days, however.

On a 12-game point streak, Tavares is one of the hottest players in the NHL right now, with eight goals and 13 assists in that span.

Only a few months removed from his 21st birthday, he's already blossoming into the player many knew he would when he was drafted first overall in 2009 and enters the game sitting in 12th in NHL scoring and only two points back of Toronto's Phil Kessel.

The Isles, however, have scored fewer goals than any other Eastern Conference team and get a huge portion of their goal production from the trio of Tavares, Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau (who plays with those two mainly only on the power play).

(Despite their meagre offence, New York became the first team in the East with three 40 points scorers last week.)

"Their power play is just behind ours (5th and 6th) in the league," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "And over the last 10 games or so it's about 35 per cent so a lot of their offence is coming from their power play. By playing the way we have been and not taking penalties, it'll help."

After a terrible 5-11-4 start to the season, the Isles have been better of late, going 8-5-0 since Christmas in large part thanks to its top three scorers and solid play from goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who will start against the Leafs.

"That's a huge plus, a veteran presence in net who doesn't get rattled," Wilson said of Nabokov, who he coached in San Jose.

"We went through a bad stretch, but we've turned it around here a little bit," Isles coach Jack Capuano said. "We know where the standings are. We know there's a lot of hockey to be played. We have to pay the price. We have to be tough to play against, work extremely hard and do all the little things to win hockey games."

Where they are in the standings at the moment is seven points back of ninth place Toronto, hanging in the playoff hunt only by the slimmest of margins. With back-to-back games here against the Leafs, however, they're hoping they can gain some ground and make things interesting.

"It's huge," Tavares said. "We have to put a streak together to really get back in it here."

As for the Toronto lineup, Wilson said there will be no changes to his roster from Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Jonas Gustavsson gets his third straight start in goal.

Projected lineup

Lupul - Bozak - Kessel Lombardi - Connolly - Kadri Crabb - Grabovski - Kulemin MacArthur - Steckel - Brown

Phaneuf - Schenn Gardiner - Franson Gunnarsson - Komisarek


Isles lineup (based on last game)

Okposo - Tavares - Moulson Grabner - Nielsen - Parenteau Rolston - Bailey - Martin Pandolfo - Wallace - Niederreiter

Jurcina - Streit Hamonic - MacDonald Eaton - Reese


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