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Maple Leafs look to step up against surging Capitals

The Washington Capitals will be encountering a team that is trying to become more physical when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.

The feeling is that the Maple Leafs have not been taking advantage of their size.

"No, I don't think we are this last little bit," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "We haven't spent enough time in the offensive zone, rolling around, being heavy on pucks. We tried to address that, it's ongoing. Every time you play someone, you're addressing something because they expose something, whether you won or lost."

The Maple Leafs are coming off a 5-2 road loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, marking their third defeat in the four games (1-2-1).

The Capitals last played on Friday at Vancouver when they overcame a four-goal deficit to record a 6-5 victory in a shootout. The comeback was sparked by a goal at 19:59 of the second period by Evgeny Kuznetsov.

"A huge win for us," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "A crazy game, and (the Canucks) converted on some of their chances early on. The huge goal for us was Kuznetsov's right before the break, under a second (on the clock). He obviously gets it in a good spot, finishes it, and we were able to talk about that between periods, and really feel like we could build some momentum and get some opportunities if we played the right way."

The Capitals will end a season-long five-game road trip on Tuesday. They posted a 4-3 victory over the Maple Leafs on Oct. 16 in Washington.

Washington is on a six-game point streak (5-0-1). A win on Tuesday would give the Capitals their ninth victory of October, tying a franchise record for the month, set in 1991-92. They are currently tied for the franchise record for points in October with 19, set in 2009-10.

Capitals defenseman John Carlson has collected at least a point in 11 of 13 games. He has five goals and 16 assists for a total of 21 points, which was tied for the second highest total by a defenseman in October. Al MacInnis, who owns the NHL record, had 25 points in 1990.

The Maple Leafs have added some size to their defense with Jake Muzzin, Cody Ceci and Kevin Gravel. They have also given more playing time to Justin Holl and Martin Marincin.

Yet, the Maple Leafs are in the bottom half of the league in hits while near the top in most giveaways.

"It's so simple," Babcock said. "You look at the guy across from you and you have to out-will him. That's what a playoff series is all about, that's when you get the No. 1 matchup, you play against the best D. But it's the battle scars you go through. Boston (which lost to Toronto on Oct. 22) went home and said, 'We'll see what happens next time' (and the Bruins won). Like kids in the playground, it's a life lesson."

Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott, who is returning from shoulder surgery, has been medically cleared to play and could be in the lineup Tuesday.

"I've been thinking about and dreaming about (that first game) for the last six months, so it's really exciting," he said.

Left winger Zach Hyman, returning from knee surgery, has yet to receive clearance to play and might still be a week away from appearing in a game.

Toronto captain John Tavares remains out with a broken finger.

--Field Level Media

Updated October 28, 2019

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