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Visiting NHL hub teams have T.O. ties


A bubbly welcome to Toronto!

If the Eastern table of the NHL’s proposed playoff tournament goes ahead — and health should come first — these 11 teams will be stabled around the Hogtown Hub later this month for qualifying and round-robin games. Some skaters were born here, played here for the Maple Leafs, or are no strangers to Scotiabank Arena. But don’t expect seeing them face-to-face for autographs as they’ll be in a COVID-19 quarantine bubble encompassing the practice rink, hotel and playing rink. No fans will be at SBA.

The best-of-five qualifying series are Leafs-Columbus, Pittsburgh-Montreal, Rangers-Carolina and Islanders-Florida. Meanwhile, the top four points-percentage finishers at the halt of play March 12 — Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia — will play a mini-event for round-one seeding.

Here’s a look at each club’s T.O. ties, with GTA-born players and regional reps, keeping in mind rosters are yet to be finalized:

Boston Bruins: Coach Bruce Cassidy has already mused about his team’s comfort level in T.O. for big games (5-4 against the Leafs in playoffs since 2013) and what an oddity it would be should they somehow meet for a third straight year.

Welcome home: F Nick Ritchie (Orangeville).

Ex-Leafs: G Tuukka Rask.

Keep your eye on: Brad Marchand. Boston’s licking time bomb would definitely deserve isolation for a lot more than two minutes.

Carolina Hurricanes: Please, no cheering for both goalies to get hurt again so local legend David Ayres can jump off his Zamboni into uniform. And will their post-victory Storm Surge resonate in an empty rink?

Welcome home: F Warren Foegele, F Brock McGinn (Fergus), F Justin Williams (Cobourg), D Dougie Hamilton.

Ex-Leafs: D Jake Gardiner, G James Reimer.

Keep your eye on: Gardiner and Reimer. Especially if they’re in a deciding game.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The first ever playoff series between the Leafs and Jackets is on tap, but they have a notable paper trade history, Nathan Horton for David Clarkson. Will the Jackets request their ear-splitting goal cannon be hauled up Bay St. for their two home games?

Welcome home: F Josh Anderson, F Boone Jenner (Dorchester), F Devin Shore, D Scott Harrington (Kingston).

Ex-Leafs: Harrington, assistant GM Basil McRae.

Keep your eye on: Coach John Tortorella. He’s mellowed, but won’t be afraid to ruffle feathers on his team or have some fun with the Toronto media.

Florida Panthers: No team should be more adept at playing in hot summer conditions. They’re also facing eight years of failure to qualify or get past the first round.

Welcome home: F Mike Hoffman (Kitchener), D Josh Brown (London), D Riley Stillman (Peterborough).

Ex-Leafs: Coach Joel Quenneville, assistant Mike Kitchen, F Dominic Toninato (draft choice), D Anton Stralman, director of player personnel Bryan McCabe.

Keep your eye on: G Sergei Bobrovsky. ‘Bob’ and his play can’t be a side show.

Montreal Canadiens: Won their last two playoff series on Toronto ice, albeit more than 40 years ago. But this team is definitely a dark horse, not a dynasty.

Welcome home: F Jake Evans, F Nick Suzuki (London), D Ben Chiarot (Hamilton), D Victor Mete.

Ex-Leafs: Assistant coaches Kirk Muller, Luke Richardson, director of player development Rob Ramage.

Keep your eye on: G Carey Price. Sixty playoff games of experience and overdue for a series’ win.

New York Islanders: Let’s assume former captain John Tavares wouldn’t like his Leafs not advancing while his old team wins again in the first round — on Toronto ice.

Welcome home: F Josh Bailey, F Casey Cizikas, F Cal Clutterbuck (Welland), D Michael Dal Colle, D Adam Pelech.

Ex-Leafs: GM Lou Lamoriello, F Matt Martin, F, Leo Komarov, assistant coach Jim Hiller, goalie coach Piero Greco.

Keep your eye on: F Brock Nelson, a team-high 26 goals. Team scoring dropped off in the second round last year after New York beat the Pens.

New York Rangers: Last time they were in Toronto for a playoff game? Try 1971 when they beat the Leafs in the series Bernie Parent’s mask ended up over the glass at MSG.

Welcome home: F Phillip Di Giuseppe, F Michael Haley, F Greg McKegg (St. Thomas), F Ryan Strome, D Brendan Smith.

Keep your eye on: Artemi Panarin. The Hart Trophy candidate is a vocal advocate for COVID-19 safety.

Philadelphia Flyers: An eventful post-season history here going back to the wars of the mid 1970s. Still a huge orange and black following in these parts.

Welcome home: F Travis Konecny (London), F Scott Laughton (Oakville), F Chris Stewart, G Brian Elliott.

Ex-Leafs: F James van Riemsdyk, Alyn McCauley (pro scout).

Keep your eye on: G Carter Hart. Without a playoff win since 2012, Philly’s goaltending will be under scrutiny.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Can’t believe it has been more than 20 years since Garry Valk’s OT goal in Toronto’s series win.

Welcome home: F Jared McCann (Stratford), F Evan Rodrigues, F Brandon Tanev.

Ex-Leafs: GM Jim Rutherford.

Keep your eye on: Sidney Crosby, who has 44 points in 34 playoff games against Canadian teams.

Tampa Bay Lightning: These boys have waited a long time for playoff redemption after a shocking first-round exit 15 months ago. Switched to a Toronto shade of blue a couple of years ago after ex-GM Steve Yzerman got nostalgic for the Leafs-Wings rivalry.

Welcome home: F Anthony Cirelli, F Barclay Goodrow, F Steve Stamkos, F Mitchell Stevens (Peterborough), F Carter Verhaeghe, G Curtis McElhinney (London)

Ex-Leafs: D Luke Schenn, Verhaeghe (draft pick).

Keep your eye on: The Stamkos one-timer, whether there’s family in the stands or not.

Washington Capitals: Their town could use the positivity of another Stanley Cup parade.

Welcome home: F Tom Wilson.

Ex Leaf: F Richard Panik.

Keep your on: F Alexander Ovechkin. The Great Eight has 126 playoff points in 128 playoff games, with 76 points in 47 regular-season/playoff games against Toronto, much of that at SBA.

lhornby@postmedia.com

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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