Rookie phenom leads Toronto into battle

Rookie phenom leads Toronto into battle 

Washington is in the midst of a brutal stretch in the schedule. Can Alex Ovechkin & Co. dig deep to fend off the Maple Leafs shortly?

The two Eastern Conference combatants drop the puck at 7 p.m. ET in the Great White North. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives the Capitals odds of -110 to emerge victorious. Mike Babcock’s crew, on the other hand, represents a +110 underdog.

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Metropolitan Division heavyweight Washington (13-5-2) will be playing its third game in four nights, having vanquished Buffalo on Friday. Philipp Grubauer stopped 32 of 33 shots, improving his record to 3-1-1 on the year. No. 1 netminder Braden Holtby should draw this evening’s assignment, though, as he pursues career win No. 160.

For the host team, Frederik Andersen returns to the crease after missing Wednesday’s 5-4 shootout loss to New Jersey. Toronto (8-8-4) blew a three-goal advantage in that affair, continuing a season-long pattern. Babcock would also like to see Auston Matthews bust out of a prolonged slump. The first overall selection in June’s draft has just two tallies in his past 14 contests.

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Flying in the face of conventional wisdom, we’ll gravitate toward the Maple Leafs here. The Caps are overdue for a clunker and may already have their sights set on next week’s bout big bout vs. Tampa Bay. Let the good times roll at Air Canada Centre, eh?

 

SATURDAY NHL FREE PICK: MAPLE LEAFS +1.5

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