East powers collide as Rangers visit Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs made a move to bolster their defense as they prepare to host the surging New York Rangers on Saturday night.

After their 4-2 victory over the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night, the Maple Leafs announced that they had acquired defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin from the Anaheim Ducks in a three-team deal.

The move was significant because Toronto defenseman Mark Giordano (concussion) had to be assisted off the ice in the first period. He did not return after crashing into the end boards at the end of a rush to the net.

“He’s going to be out some time,” Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving told reporters after Friday’s practice. “We have, or we will, be placing him on injured reserve. He was concussed.”

Toronto was also without defensemen Timothy Liljegren (undisclosed injury), who is listed as day-to-day, and Conor Timmins (mononucleosis).

“We talked a bit this morning about being in a jam on defense this morning, then we got jammed a little harder,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said after the game Thursday.

As a result, Keefe had forward Mitchell Marner take some turns on defense.

A slick, playmaking All-Star forward, Marner has occasionally been put on defense in emergencies. It was an experiment that started in training camp.

“It’s great, his willingness to do it first of all,” Keefe said. “It was great he chipped in and in the third period, the guys held on and fought their way through it.”

Giordano and Liljegren did not practice Friday.

Thursday’s game also marked the return of goaltender Joseph Woll, who made 30 saves in his first appearance since suffering a sprained ankle Dec. 7.

The deal for Lyubushkin also involved the Carolina Hurricanes.

Anaheim received Toronto’s third-round pick in the 2025 draft, Carolina received Toronto’s sixth-round pick in the 2024 draft and Toronto received Carolina forward prospect Kirill Slepets.

Lyubushkin, 29, played 31 games for the Maple Leafs in 2021-22.

Meanwhile, the Rangers will leap into what they hope is a magnificent March after a fabulous February.

New York posted a 10-1-0 record in February and outscored opponents 40-22.

The Rangers finished the month with a 4-1 home win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday to reach 40 wins in their 60th game, tying the 1972-73 team as the quickest to reach that plateau.

The Rangers are the first team in the league to reach 40 wins this season. They had their 10-game winning streak stopped with a 4-2 loss Suunday at Columbus.

“The conversation in the locker room was definitely to get back after the last game and return the debt to Columbus,” said Artemi Panarin, who had two goals and an assist Wednesday.

Goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who has allowed one goal in four straight starts, went 7-0-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .953 save percentage in February. He struggled in January, going 4-5-1 with a 3.25 GAA and .863 save percentage.

Like Shesterkin, the Rangers rebounded after a 5-7-2 January.

“That was the plan when we hit February, was to have it be a better month and have our actions speak for what we’re looking for inside of that month,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think the guys did a pretty good job.

“To fight back on just this last game where we didn’t win (three) nights before, we came back and ended it the way we wanted to end it. We’re moving on. We’ve got to take on March and go from there.”

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