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Columbus Blue Jackets preview
The ninth-seeded Columbus Blue Jackets look to slow down the high-octane Maple Leafs on Sunday in the opener of a best-of-five Eastern Conference qualifying series in Toronto. A return to health given the 4 1/2-month absence will go a long way in that regard, as All-Star defenseman Seth Jones and forward Oliver Bjorkstrand (team-leading 21 goals) are back after sustaining broken ankles.
Pierre-Luc Dubois had a club-best 31 assists and 49 points for Columbus, which tied for an NHL fourth-worst 2.53 goals per game. The Blue Jackets’ bread and butter rests at the other end of the ice, with goaltenders Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins each stepping up after the team parted ways with two-time Vezina Trophy recipient Sergei Bobrovsky in the offseason.
Toronto Maple Leafs Preview
The eighth-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs hope to enjoy some semblance of home-ice advantage on Sunday when they open their best-of-five Eastern Conference qualifying series against the ninth-seeded Columbus Blue Jackets.
Sure, fans will not be allowed in Scotiabank Arena, but the Maple Leafs are capable of keeping the scoreboard operator busy with their NHL third-best offense (3.39 goals per game) and sixth-ranked power play (23.1 percent).
Auston Matthews, who set career highs in goals (47) and points (80), had two and three, respectively, as Toronto posted a 1-0-1 mark versus Columbus this season. Mitch Marner, who had a club-best 51 assists, scored two goals and set up two others in the season series.