Game Day: Maple Leafs at Rangers Lance HornbyMore from Lance Hornby Game Day: Maple Leafs at Rangers TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS at NEW YORK RANGERS Sunday, 7 p.m., Madison Square Garden TV: Sportsnet; Radio: 590 AM THE BIG MATCHUP Garret Sparks vs. Henrik Lundqvist The Rangers’ 3-0 loss to Carolina on Friday sums up much of their season, a great game by Lundqvist with 30 saves, but no offensive support on a team blanked five times this season. Lundqvist has struggled against Toronto in the past, but was on the bench when rookie Alexander Georgiev faced the Leafs in a 5-3 loss in Toronto on Dec. 22. Sparks is expected to make his 13th appearance in pursuit of his eighth win. FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME Manhattan transfer Though the Leafs played Saturday, this could be a favourable matchup in a back-to-back. The Rangers had been defying the experts by staying in the playoff hunt, but have lost three of their past four and are 0-4 against the Leafs since the start of last season. These teams tend to open up as well, averaging more than a combined seven goals a game in that span, which would favour the more dynamic Leafs, though not their coach. J.T. is back No Leaf is more familiar with the MSG vibe than John Tavares, with 40 points in 44 overall games against the Rangers while getting a rough ride from the crowd. He had two assists in the Dec. 22 game. Linemate Mitch Marner is also averaging a point a game versus New York in his brief career. Aftershocks The Rangers saved one of their worst performances Friday for the 25-year reunion of their most recent Stanley Cup team. After a few of those stars such as Mark Messier dropped in to speak to the team, the flat effort was a huge disappointment to coach David Quinn. Centres of attention Tavares could come up a few times against Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers’ busiest faceoff man, who is ranked close to him in wins on the draw near the top of the NHL chart. Zibanejad is also New York’s top scorer. Hobbit habit If Zibanejad is the Big Zee, Mats Zuccarello, the Norwegian Hobbit, has a smaller profile, but 19 points in his last 12 games against the Maple Leafs, part of six career multi-point games against Toronto. MAPLE LEAFS GAME DAY LINES LW C RW Zach Hyman John Tavares Mitch Marner Patrick Marleau Auston Matthews Kasperi Kapanen Connor Brown Nazem Kadri William Nylander Par Lindholm Frederik Gauthier Andreas Johnsson DEFENCE PAIRINGS Jake Muzzin Morgan Rielly Jake Gardiner Nikita Zaitsev Travis Dermott Ron Hainsey GOALIES Frederik Andersen Garret Sparks RANGERS GAME DAY LINES LW C RW Chris Kreider Mika Zibanejad Mats Zuccarello Pavel Buchnevich Kevin Hayes Jesper Fast Filip Chytil Ryan Strome Vladislav Namestnikov Jimmy Vesey Boo Nieves Vinni Lettieri DEFENCE PAIRINGS Marc Staal Anthony DeAngelo Brady Skjei Adam McQuaid Brendan Smith Kevin Shattenkirk GOALIES Henrik Lundqvist Alexandar Georgiev INJURIES Toronto: None NY Rangers: D Fredrik Claesson (shoulder); C Brett Howden (knee) SPECIAL TEAMS POWER PLAY Toronto: 21.1% (14th) NY Rangers: 20.8% (16th) PENALTY KILLING Toronto: 80.7% (13th) NY Rangers: 77.0% (26th) Sunday NHL preview: Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Rangers By Dave FeschukSports Columnist Sat., Feb. 9, 2019 MADISON SQUARE GARDEN PUCK DROP: 7 p.m. The ongoing issues of defensive partners Jake Gardiner, left, and Nikita Zaitsev could lead Leafs head coach Mike Babcock to shake up his pairings on the blue line. (Kevin Sousa / GETTY IMAGES) TV: Sportsnet RADIO: Sportsnet 590 The FAN KEY PLAYERS Sparks/Lundqvist If form holds, Garret Sparks is expected get the start in goal for the Leafs on the second leg of a back-to-back set. With Henrik Lundqvist looming a night after Toronto faced Montreal’s Carey Price, Toronto could theoretically take shots at the two highest-paid goaltenders in the NHL in a 24-hour span. (When Price’s current cap hit of $10.5 million kicked in this season, it usurped Lundqvist’s $8.5 million annual average value as the NHL high-water mark). In any case, advantage Maple Leafs: Lundqvist, now age 36, has 32 career meetings against Toronto and sports an .897 save percentage, his worst mark against an Eastern Conference opponent. NEED TO KNOW Sparks has allowed two goals against in three of his past four starts … The struggles of the Toronto defensive pairing of Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner have been well documented. Leafs coach Mike Babcock acknowledged Saturday the possibility of a shakeup on the blue line, suggesting he could spread the wealth of Toronto’s top pairing, which currently consists of Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin. “I don’t know what I’ll do — maybe (move Muzzin to) a different pair. We’ll just see what happens.” UP NEXT Tuesday at Colorado, 9 p.m.