Leafs Pregame: Going back to Cali

The Leafs land in California, and their first stop is against the San Jose Sharks, home to future Leaf Joe Thornton.

All three of these games in California should be very winnable for the Leafs, and the Sharks being without both of their Karlssons and Tomas Hertl certainly helps their chance at victory tonight, though the Sharks are somehow on a two game winning streak, so maybe something is clicking for them at the moment. Nothing is ever free in this league, so, hopefully the Leafs of last week are still going to play that level.

Martin Marincin
Tyson Barrie
Travis Dermott
Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin
Calle Rosen

Jack Campbell makes his much anticipated return to the net tonight. After exiting on a high note during Andersen’s injury, we haven’t seen him back in net since, and it looks like he could possibly be grabbing two of the games in California, as the Kings and Ducks will be back to back games later this week. Campbell knows these Pacific Division teams a bit better, and he had a great outing against San Jose earlier this season. He had a much rockier appearance against Andersen, so I’d expect Andersen gets to face his former team, and Campbell will get to face his former team, the Kings. Or maybe that’s me just hoping for some storylines to go along with important games that don’t really need additional plots.

There is a bit of a defensive pairing shakeup as Rasmus Sandin comes out of the roster tonight.

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This seems to be a planned thing, and as much as Sandin is the future of the Leafs blueline, he’s not there yet, and getting a birds eye view of what’s happening in real time might be good for him. At the end of the day, when Rielly and Ceci return next week, it will likely be Sandin that sticks with the Leafs, so letting Rosen and Liljegren get in some games now isn’t a bad idea, nor is trying Martin Marincin with Tyson Barrie.

As much as the idea of giving Martin Marincin more responsibility might upset some of you, the idea of pairing him with someone who can make up for his puck moving deficiencies is a plus, and having a defense first partner with Tyson Barrie is never a bad thing either.

As for the forwards, well, they get to face Martin Jones, so there really isn’t much of an excuse for them not to come up big tonight. The Rocket Richard race is becoming increasingly competitive, and Matthews has just 16 games to score 10 goals to claim the Leafs single season goal scoring record. Compared to the playoffs, that is trivial, but it would be enjoyable.

Pierre Engvall on the fourth line makes a lot of sense as well, since over the past few weeks a lot of the initial success has eroded and while he’s still a good bottom six player with room to grow, he’s no longer in danger of being considered for top six assignments.

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If you’re doing some out of town scoreboard watching tonight, the game to focus on is probably the Lightning vs. Bruins. It seems the Bruins have locked up 1st in the Atlantic, but if that’s going to change at all, it would have to involve a Tampa win tonight. With the Atlantic Division playoff picture becoming much clearer this week, it’s probably time to focus on how the Leafs stack up against the Lightning and conveniently, the two teams will see each other twice this month.

Game time is 10:30 PM ET, so brew a pot of coffee. The game can be seen on Sportsnet Ontario.