After another four-day hiatus in which fans eagerly awaited a trade that has yet to happen, the Toronto Maple Leafs are back in action against a tired Senators team that has won two in a row. for the third time only this season (7 p.m.). EST, TSN 4 and 5).
Tonight, the Leafs enter a busy eight-game 14-day spell after a two-week spell that will be their only significant rest during the season this season. Toronto will have three consecutive days off at the end of April and just one more two-day period before the regular season ends on May 8.
The Senators tied the season series at three wins apiece 11 days ago when they overtook the tired Leafs in a back-to-back situation on a Sunday night. Needless to say, with the bottom pack closing the gap in the division during March, the Leafs need to take better advantage of the bottom feeder of the division. Edmonton, in comparison, is 7-0-0 against the Senators this season, which is a major reason they have caught the Leafs on points (42), even though the Oilers have played two more games. .
With Wayne Simmonds promoted to the front row for now and Alex Galchenyuk in the middle of a try alongside John Tavares and William Nylander, the Leafs’ lines sport a more balanced look than in the early parts of the season. , with both Hyman and Thornton moved to the third and fourth lines. It’s natural to look at the lines forward and wonder if the Leafs brass are trying new combinations of the last six knowing there will likely be help from outside the organization on the left wing. of the depth chart in the coming weeks.
On the Ottawa side, the Senators started their best streak in goal prevention, in part thanks to improved goaltenders. They have allowed two goals or less in regulation time in their last four games against Calgary and Vancouver.
Rrookie Artem Zub, a 25-year-old undrafted rookie who left the KHL (St. Petersburg), has seen his role expand this season as he felt more comfortable in the NHL, currently helping to solidify the top four of the Sens alongside Mike Reilly. Zub has appeared in 26 games this season, averaging 5:15 p.m. ice time, but his workload has increased to just over 20 minutes per game in his last five games. He and Reilly were the Sens’s best pair in their back-to-back wins over the Flames – they managed an xGF rating of 67.4% in those games, the Sens’s only pair at over 50%.
Ottawa’s other top defense pair, consisting of Thomas Chabot and Nikita Zaitsev, has struggled lately. They have terrible numbers based on shots in their last ten games and have given up ten 5v5 goals while scoring only five. Zaitsev, in particular, has been well below the water – score-adjusted, he has an xGF rating of 36.7% and a shot attempt rating of 40% in his last ten games.
As usual, DJ Smith will not reveal his starting goalie for tonight. While all of their goalies are skating at this point, Matt Murray hasn’t played since March 10 while Marcus Hogberg hasn’t played since mid-February. 22-year-old rookie Filip Gustavsson started in both wins over Calgary – just his second and third games in the NHL – while giving up just two goals. Anton Forsberg is also healthy and part of the mix, but he hasn’t played in the NHL since March of last year.
In the Leafs’ net, it is the continuation of a potentially extended opportunity for Jack Campbell (4-0-0, save percentage of .965) to claim more ground with a struggling Frederik Andersen on the repair of the injury.
Match Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on the team’s goal in the coming weeks:
I think we’re just looking for more consistency with all areas of our game, on both sides of the puck – the special teams, and all that stuff. We have clearly shown at this point in the season that no matter what area of the game we have shown that we can do it very well. A lot of times when things slipped out of our mind, we lacked the consistency to keep doing it, so that’s really what we’re looking for here.
The increase in practice time and rest that we have had here over the past few weeks should help us in this regard, especially as the schedule warms up. The challenge for us here today, especially against a team that played last night and will be rolling here from the start, is that we have to get back into this game mode very quickly.
Keefe sur Brady Tkachuk:
There aren’t many guys who play this role as well as he does. There are a lot of big, strong guys going to the net, but [they] don’t necessarily have the skills or the timing to face the odds.
He is definitely someone who is difficult to deal with in this area. The challenge is to try to get out quickly and not let him or his line spend time in the attacking zone so that he doesn’t have as many opportunities to use the skills he has to reach the net. .
If you come back and come out clean you don’t have to play our side and that takes that strength away from their game.
Keefe on the lack of injuries on the roster right now:
This is definitely a positive point. We’ve been battling injuries so far in the first half of the season. Hope we can stay healthy for the rest of the time, of course. The timing will take a toll on our team at some point, and we need to be able to handle that, manage that, and use our depth.
We really want to enjoy this rested and healthy group here. It should definitely improve our energy level and the way we can ride four lines and six defenders.
Keefe on how the Senators have progressed as a team this season:
I just feel like they’re a team that over the season have become a lot more comfortable with the way they want to play and have to play. At the same time, it’s a very young team and their young players are getting a lot of experience and they’ve been through a lot.
We have felt that, really since the start of the season, they are a difficult team to face. They had a lot of nights where the game was ahead of them early and they struggled to make saves. Every time they’ve got those saves… they’re winning games or they’re an extremely tough team to beat.
You really see it here now. Just to focus on the last 20 games, they’re really as good as any team in the division in that sense. They are a team that may have overlooked them because of their early days, but if you watch their games and focus on them, they do a lot of things.
Obviously, [they] haven’t lost in regulation in five games here now. They form a confident team and [probably] played their best hockey against us, so we have every reason to be ready here tonight.
DJ Smith on Braydon Coburn’s defense:
Just consecutive games, he did not play. He’s someone who defends really well against a team that can score. He gives us a cool guy over there who can help protect us tonight from what we believe to be one of the most serious offenses in hockey.
Smith on his team’s mentality tonight:
You must stay outside the PK. You can’t give their power play an extra edge – one or two penalties at most. We have to find a way not to give them high end chances. If we do, they score. We have to have a defense mentality first and try to limit the touches of their great players.
Smith on Alex Forementon and what he brings to the PK:
Speed kills in this league and he can fly. As his details improve, he will become a very good NHL player. I wasn’t afraid to put him in defensive situations last night. I think his speed will be able to create some offense – not just now but for years to come.
Toronto Maple Leafs projected lines
# 24 Wayne Simmonds – # 34 Auston Matthews – # 16 Mitch Marner
# 12 Alex Galchenyuk – # 91 John Tavares – # 88 William Nylander
# 65 Ilya Mikheyev – # 47 Pierre Engvall – # 11 Zach Hyman
# 97 Joe Thornton – # 15 Alex Kerfoot – # 19 Jason Spezza
# 44 Morgan Rielly – # 78 TJ Brodie
# 8 Jake Muzzin – # 3 Justin Holl
# 23 Travis Dermott – # 22 Zach Bogosian
# 36 Jack Campbell (partant)
# 30 Michael Hutchinson
Supplements: Martin Marincin, Timothy Liljegren, Nic Petan, Alexander Barabanov
Injured: Frederik Andersen
Ottawa Senators projected lines
# 7 Brady Tkachuk – # 9 Josh Norris – # 63 Evgenii Dadonov
# 18 Tim Stutzle – # 71 Chris Tierney – # 19 Drake Batherson
# 13 Nick Paul – # 36 Colin White – # 10 Ryan Dzingel
# 59 Alex Formenton – # 64 Clark Bishop – # 28 Connor Brown
# 72 Thomas Chabot – # 22 Nikita Zaitsev
# 38 Mike Reilly – # 2 Artem Zub
# 55 Braydon Coburn – # 44 Erik Gudbranson
# 31 Anton Forsberg
# 32 Filip Gustavsson
Injured: Marcus Hogberg, Matt Murray, Joey Daccord, Derek Stepan, Artem Anisimov, Austin Watson