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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski | USA Today

Leafs and Jets meet for the first time this season

Tonight is the opening match for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets in a season where the two teams will battle more times than ever before. The Jets had a fairly quiet off-season, not making many moves. But the move they did make was a big one, acquiring Paul Stastny from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Carl Dahlstrom and a 2022 fourth-round selection.

More recently, the Jets have made some internal moves between their taxi squad and their roster, as well as claiming Anton Forsberg off waivers last week to strengthen their goalie depth.

But the big story with the Jets has been the team’s apparent COVID exposure, as first Nikolaj Ehlers missed practice due to COVID protocol, and then the team canceled practice entirely on Saturday “out of an abundance of caution” following COVID exposure. The canceled practice thankfully was an isolated incident, and the Jets headed east yesterday to make it to tonight’s match-up.

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However, it now seems the Jets have been bitten by the injury bug, as well, as after leaving morning skate early it was announced that Patrik Laine will be out tonight with an upper-body injury.

Meanwhile, the Leafs are coming off a win in Ottawa, where they played solidly for the most part in the second game of the back-to-back against the Senators. Auston Matthews scored his first goal of the season on Saturday night, and Joe Thornton scored his first goal as a Leaf. Jack Campbell was mostly solid in net, helping the team bounce back from a Friday night loss and take the 2 points.

The team looked less shaky in front of Campbell than they had in both games with Andersen in net, so the big question is have they shaken off their off-season rust and gotten their bearings, or is there something to be said for confidence in their netminder? With Andersen in goal tonight it’ll be interesting to watch.

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Lineups

Toronto Maple Leafs

LW C RW
Joe Thornton
JOE THORNTON

Rating: 72.3#74 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

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Rating: 82.3#6 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 76.6#18 RW

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Jimmy Vesey
JIMMY VESEY

Rating: 70.6#107 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 77.6#15 C

William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 76.1#23 RW

Ilya Mikheyev
ILYA MIKHEYEV

Rating: 74.0#42 LW

Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 70.8#113 C

Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 74.6#33 RW

Mikko Lehtonen
MIKKO LEHTONEN
Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 69.4#126 C

Wayne Simmonds
WAYNE SIMMONDS

Rating: 70.2#112 RW

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY

Rating: 75.3#14 LD

T.J. Brodie
T.J. BRODIE

Rating: 74.2#27 RD

Jake Muzzin
JAKE MUZZIN

Rating: 75.1#17 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 72.0#61 RD

Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 71.7#83 LD

Zach Bogosian
ZACH BOGOSIAN

Rating: 71.4#76 RD

Winnipeg Jets

LW C RW
Nikolaj Ehlers
NIKOLAJ EHLERS

Rating: 75.7#20 LW

Mark Scheifele
MARK SCHEIFELE

Rating: 76.8#19 C

Blake Wheeler
BLAKE WHEELER

Rating: 76.3#22 RW

Kyle Connor
KYLE CONNOR

Rating: 79.5#5 LW

Paul Stastny
PAUL STASTNY

Rating: 74.8#36 C

Patrik Laine
PATRIK LAINE

Rating: 74.7#31 RW

Andrew Copp
ANDREW COPP

Rating: 72.5#60 LW

Adam Lowry
ADAM LOWRY

Rating: 69.2#149 C

Mason Appleton
MASON APPLETON

Rating: 69.5#123 RW

Mathieu Perreault
MATHIEU PERREAULT

Rating: 71.1#96 LW

Nate Thompson
NATE THOMPSON

Rating: 69.4#145 C

Trevor Lewis
TREVOR LEWIS

Rating: 70.1#114 RW

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Josh Morrissey
JOSH MORRISSEY

Rating: 74.1#29 LD

Sami Niku
SAMI NIKU

Rating: 71.4#92 RD

Derek Forbort
DEREK FORBORT

Rating: 70.5#109 LD

Neal Pionk
NEAL PIONK

Rating: 75.3#20 RD

Logan Stanley
LOGAN STANLEY
Nathan Beaulieu
NATHAN BEAULIEU

Rating: 72.1#72 RD

*these lineups were set before Laine was announced as out, and Ehlers coming in for him.

Leafs player to watch: Auston Matthews

After going scoreless in the first two games, Matthews scored his first goal of the season Saturday night. He was clearly hungry for it, notching 16 SOG over the last three games. Now that he’s apparently shaken off the off-season rust, look for beast-mode Matthews to start showing up more often. And of course, there’s always the friendly competition between Leafs fans and Jets fans about who is better, Matthews or Patrik Laine. Unfortunately, with Laine out tonight, we’ll have to wait a bit to get a good look.

Jets player to watch: Blake Wheeler

With Patrik Laine out tonight, we turn our eyes to the captain, Blake Wheeler. The Jets only have one game under their belts this season, with Wheeler notching an assist on the 3rd of 4 goals. But with their star player not in the lineup, everyone is going to have to step up, and that starts with the captain. The Wheeler-led Jets aren’t an easy matchup for the Leafs, and it should be fun to watch!

Leafs starting goalie: Frederik Andersen

As mentioned, Andersen has had a shaky start to the season, with a save percentage of just .839 over the two games he’s played. Not only does Freddie look rocky, the team in front of him looks less than confident, too. It’ll be interesting tonight to see if Freddie can get back some of the steadiness he has been known for, or whether the team will have to work to outscore his challenges.

Jets starting goalie: Connor Hellebuyck

Though unconfirmed at the time of writing, it’s assumed that Connor Hellebuyck will be in net for the Jets tonight. Hellebuyck is on many short lists to win the Vezina, in fact he’s the favourite for quite a few analysts. He won’t be easy for the Leafs to score on, which makes it all the more important that Freddie plays well.

Tonight’s game will be on Sportsnet at 7:00pm EST.