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Photo Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Maple Leafs Pregame #47: 5 Things to watch for against the Devils

So, how about that Leafs blueline? A bit of a mess, eh? This is pretty much an evergreen comment over the past few years, but the injury to Morgan Rielly really seems to be hammering home the issues there.

The good news is that we’re getting another look at Rasmus Sandin as a result of that unfortunate situation. The other good news is that the Leafs are playing the Devils tonight and that is a pretty manageable adversary, especially when you need to try and break out of a three game losing streak.

I wouldn’t say that anything is a given at this point, but hopefully the Leafs can start getting back on track.

Lineups

LW C RW Forwards
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 73.6#48 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 83.0#2 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 78.6#5 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 78.39#5 FL1
William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 76.3#16 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 78.7#14 C

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 71.9#103 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 75.63#9 FL2
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON

Rating: 73.7#46 LW

Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 73.8#60 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 73.1#53 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 73.50#2 FL3
Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 69.8#124 LW

Adam Brooks
ADAM BROOKS
Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 70.4#108 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.12#22 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 72.7#63 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 72.7#13 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 72.74#26 DL1
Martin Marincin
MARTIN MARINCIN

Rating: 71.4#96 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 76.1#12 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.74#13 DL2
Rasmus Sandin
RASMUS SANDIN

Rating: 73.6#40 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.4#77 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.53#11 DL3
LW C RW Forwards
Pavel Zacha
PAVEL ZACHA

Rating: 70.7#141 LW

Nico Hischier
NICO HISCHIER

Rating: 75.7#33 C

Jesper Bratt
JESPER BRATT

Rating: 72.6#74 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 73.02#29 FL1
Blake Coleman
BLAKE COLEMAN

Rating: 74.3#48 LW

Travis Zajac
TRAVIS ZAJAC

Rating: 70.8#139 C

Nikita Gusev
NIKITA GUSEV

Rating: 73.3#49 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 72.80#25 FL2
Miles Wood
MILES WOOD

Rating: 70.8#106 LW

Jack Hughes
JACK HUGHES

Rating: 73.2#70 C

Wayne Simmonds
WAYNE SIMMONDS

Rating: 70.1#115 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 71.37#23 FL3
Jesper Boqvist
JESPER BOQVIST

Rating: 71.9#88 LW

Kevin Rooney
KEVIN ROONEY

Rating: 69.1#174 C

John Hayden
JOHN HAYDEN

Rating: 68.0#135 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 69.65#24 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Andy Greene
ANDY GREENE

Rating: 70.9#106 LD

P.K. Subban
P.K. SUBBAN

Rating: 74.1#26 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 72.52#28 DL1
Damon Severson
DAMON SEVERSON

Rating: 72.7#54 LD

Sami Vatanen
SAMI VATANEN

Rating: 72.8#48 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 72.76#26 DL2
Will Butcher
WILL BUTCHER

Rating: 71.7#88 LD

Connor Carrick
CONNOR CARRICK

Rating: 70.6#95 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 71.16#25 DL3

Additionally…

It doesn’t seem like Liljegren will be playing tonight, but noteworthy all the same.

Here are five things to watch for…

1. Will we get to see the real Freddie Andersen?

Andersen has been pulled twice in his last three starts, has only had 2 games with a save percentage above .900 in his last 10 games, and under Sheldon Keefe he has a save percentage of .911. Things have not been great for Andersen and with little defense and a questionable backup, he needs to be better, even if he is tired from facing more shots than every other goaltender other than Connor Hellebucyk and Carey Price.

It would be nice to get a statement game from Andersen that he’s still the goaltender that managed to sneak his way into the All-Star Game this year, but it would have also been equally nice to see Hutchinson get the start. Alas, we’ll have to hope for the Andersen statement game instead.

2. The Return of Rasmus Sandin

There is little doubt that this is the key story line of the game for the Leafs tonight, as the organization’s top prospect and star of the World Juniors tournament looks to make his case for permanently becoming a Leaf. Being paired with Cody Ceci might seem like a bit of a drag on Sandin’s abilities, but he’s used to playing with AHL tier defense.

Sandin will likely be pretty sheltered as they ease him back into the lineup, and not only because pretty much every Devils line looks like you are sheltering your defensemen. Hopefully he’ll take to league quickly and we can all come in off the ledge.

3. The Johnsson-Engvall-Kapanen line

It seems like we should enjoy this line while we have it because if the Leafs are going to make any kind of changes at the trade deadline there is a good chance that one of or both of Johnsson and Kapanen will be involved.

The Leafs don’t have a shortage of talent on the wing, and with Engvall not only emerging as a regular in the NHL, but a potential 3C that might eventually transition back to the wing, the Leafs have some wiggle room on what they can do.

For now, this line looks like a lot of fun and has some defensive responsibility behind it as well, as far as Leafs and defensively minded forwards go.

4. Will Tyson Barrie step up?

We can all look back on that one glorious week after Babcock was fired when we all got exactly what we wanted out of Tyson Barrie, but it seems like since then he’s been as if not more frustrating than he was under Babcock. Now that the Leafs need him more than they ever have before it would be nice to see him standout and make a case as the interim best defenseman.

5. Offense

Given that the Leafs defense and goaltending is questionable at best, it’s time to truly celebrate what the Leafs do best, and that’s play offensively.

The salvation isn’t coming from the blueline, even if Sandin does live up to the hype, if the Leafs are going to have any kind of success over the next couple of months they will really need to lean into their offensive game, and increase the pressure on their opponents.

The Leafs are rolling a pretty aggressive top nine, and that should make for some fun hockey. Maybe Toronto will get to be on the fun side of an 8-4 game tonight.

Game time is 7pm ET and can be seen on Sportsnet Ontario.