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Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

News from the Rink: Matthews cleared to play, Kaše out against Oilers

After missing the last two practices as the result of a false positive on a rapid test, Auston Matthews was cleared for action and returned to the ice on Wednesday morning ahead of the Leafs’ matchup against the Oilers. It was the second time in as many weeks that Matthews returned a false positive but he says he hasn’t experienced any symptoms and he is ready to go.

It goes without saying that having Matthews available to play is a positive development for the Leafs, but perhaps even more so given that their last game was the first one all season in which every forward on the roster was healthy. It took 30 games, but Sheldon Keefe finally got an opportunity to deploy his ideal lineup and having to shuffle things around to make up for the absence of Matthews would certainly throw things into disarray.

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That fully healthy lineup only lasted the single game, however, as Ondrej Kase tweaked something while working out on Tuesday. Keefe said Kaše is listed as day-to-day and Nick Ritchie will draw back into the lineup after sitting out Saturday’s game against Ottawa as a healthy scratch.

Jack Campbell will get the start in goal for the Leafs and will be looking to continue his stellar campaign against a struggling Oilers team that will be without Connor McDavid after he had a positive COVID test on Tuesday. It will be Campbell’s 24th start, just 32 games into the Leafs’ season, and his play has earned him an opportunity to run with the job as the team’s undisputed number one goaltender.

The opportunity is now for Jack Campbell to lead the Maple Leafs into the future

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Projected Lineup vs. Edmonton

The Leafs will ice a very similar lineup to the one that put a beating on the Senators this past weekend. The only changes up front are Pierre Engvall slotting back onto the third line alongside David Kampf and Ilya Mikheyev in the absence of Kaše, with Ritchie rejoining Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds on the fourth line.

Timothy Liljegren returned to practice on Monday after being removed from the COVID-19 list but after a strong defensive effort from the group on Saturday, and with Jake Muzzin also set to return to the lineup, Liljegren will have to await an opportunity to get back into the lineup. The young blueliner has taken a significant step forward this season and has shown he can handle regular minutes but having depth on the back end – especially in the world we’re currently living in – is a good thing and it shouldn’t be long before Liljegren gets back into a game.

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In addition to McDavid, the Oilers will also be without Derek Ryan and Tyson Barrie who were placed in the league’s COVID protocol. Wednesday will also mark Zach Hyman’s return to Toronto and while the Leafs will surely acknowledge his tenure with a video tribute of some kind, fans will have to wait to show their appreciation to the former Leaf at a later date.

Where to Watch:

Sportsnet, 7pm ET

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