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Maple Leafs Pregame #57: 5 things to watch for against the Coyotes

The Leafs have nine games left before the trade deadline, and this morning they are more comfortably sitting in 3rd place in the Atlantic thanks to a Panthers loss to the Flyers. If it wasn’t already painfully clear, it seems the best path to the playoffs runs through the Atlantic Division 3rd place spot, rather than either of the wildcard spots.

The Coyotes are an ideal opponent for the Leafs tonight. The Habs played a tight game against them last night before Arizona ultimately sealed the deal in the final couple of minutes, avoiding overtime. The Coyotes find themselves in the same position the Leafs were on the weekend where they need to decide if the going with the same goaltender on both nights of a back to back is in their best interest.

Lineups

LW C RW Forwards
Andreas Johnsson
ANDREAS JOHNSSON

Rating: 73.5#42 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 83.7#2 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 79.1#6 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 78.79#4 FL1
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 73.8#55 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 79.3#13 C

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 71.3#124 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 74.83#10 FL2
Kyle Clifford
KYLE CLIFFORD

Rating: 70.4#106 LW

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 71.5#120 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 71.9#70 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 71.27#20 FL3
Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 72.6#63 LW

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 69.2#174 C

Dmytro Timashov
DMYTRO TIMASHOV

Rating: 71.3#87 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.05#13 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 70.9#99 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 75.6#15 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 73.24#21 DL1
Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 74.2#26 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 72.3#61 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 73.28#17 DL2
Rasmus Sandin
RASMUS SANDIN

Rating: 73.5#41 LD

Timothy Liljegren
TIMOTHY LILJEGREN

Rating: 73.2#35 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 73.37#6 DL3
LW C RW Forwards
Taylor Hall
TAYLOR HALL

Rating: 77.1#11 LW

Christian Dvorak
CHRISTIAN DVORAK

Rating: 73.1#68 C

Conor Garland
CONOR GARLAND

Rating: 74.1#39 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 74.74#21 FL1
Lawson Crouse
LAWSON CROUSE

Rating: 71.3#88 LW

Derek Stepan
DEREK STEPAN

Rating: 72.2#101 C

Phil Kessel
PHIL KESSEL

Rating: 72.5#60 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 71.97#27 FL2
Clayton Keller
CLAYTON KELLER

Rating: 73.7#57 LW

Nick Schmaltz
NICK SCHMALTZ

Rating: 72.3#96 C

Vinnie Hinostroza
VINNIE HINOSTROZA

Rating: 71.5#78 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.49#10 FL3
Carl Soderberg
CARL SODERBERG

Rating: 72.5#70 LW

Brad Richardson
BRAD RICHARDSON

Rating: 71.2#127 C

Christian Fischer
CHRISTIAN FISCHER

Rating: 69.8#120 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.14#11 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Oliver Ekman-Larsson
OLIVER EKMAN-LARSSON

Rating: 74.5#23 LD

Niklas Hjalmarsson
NIKLAS HJALMARSSON

Rating: 71.4#79 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 72.99#22 DL1
Jakob Chychrun
JAKOB CHYCHRUN

Rating: 75.2#14 LD

Alex Goligoski
ALEX GOLIGOSKI

Rating: 74.4#27 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 74.79#6 DL2
Jordan Oesterle
JORDAN OESTERLE

Rating: 71.2#96 LD

Ilya Lyubushkin
ILYA LYUBUSHKIN

Rating: 70.0#100 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 70.61#25 DL3

We’ll likely have some updates on the Leafs lineup card on TLN a bit later today as we determine the extent of the damage the flu has done to the roster.

Here are five things to watch for…

1. The Return of Phil Kessel

This doesn’t seem like the big deal it used to be, but Phil Kessel was one of the few bright spots in a very dark decade for the Leafs, and it’s always nice to have a chance to see him in Toronto again and watch the media trip over themselves to see who can look like the biggest idiot when interviewing him.

2. Campbell or Andersen?

While Andersen hasn’t fully been ruled out for this game, I personally lean towards the idea of giving Campbell another go. He is 1-1-0 with a .909 save percentage against the Coyotes while playing on the Kings, which aren’t standout numbers, but considering the Leafs should be better in front of him, playing him against a lineup he has seen more of has some appeal. No matter what we won’t be waiting too long before seeing Campbell again, as the Leafs have back to back games against Ottawa and Buffalo this weekend and you’d have to expect he’ll play in one of them.

3. Scoreboard Watching SZN

Last night was a very friendly night for the Leafs in that the Panthers lost to the Flyers, but also an unfriendly night as far as the wild card spots go as the Islanders and Flyers won, and the Blue Jackets managed to pick up a point by pushing the Lightning to overtime. Like I mentioned above, the best path to the playoffs is with a spot in the Atlantic division.

Tonight a tired Panthers team plays the Devils, which is best situation for them to be facing the Devils. The Flyers and Islanders play each other, so anything other than a 3 point game is a win, and the Hurricanes face the Stars.

I would also say keep an eye on the Lightning, who have been making an aggressive move for 1st in the Atlantic, and seem hellbent on setting up the inevitable first round matchup between the Bruins and Leafs.

4. Pontus Aberg

With the amount of illness, and just the general disinterest in playing Dmytro Timashov, I wonder if Pontus Aberg will find his way into the lineup tonight. I’m interested in a more offensively driven 4th line with Aberg on it, and still think the Leafs are a puzzle that needs to be put together to find what works, and what can be solved internally rather than what needs to be addressed at the trade deadline.

5. Matthews and the Rocket Richard race

This shouldn’t matter when the Leafs are fighting for their playoff lives, but Auston Matthews has the opportunity to take a lead in the race tonight, and he can do so against his boyhood team. It goes without saying that he’s a player to keep an eye on. Auston has three goals and an assist in seven games against the Coyotes, so maybe he prefers to go easy on them.

Gametime is 7PM ET and it can be seen on TSN 4.