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Auston Matthews returns, an update on McMann, and some lineup changes: Leafs Practice Notes

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Photo credit:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
Saturday morning the Leafs held an optional skate prior to Game 4 tonight, here are a few of the takeaways from that skate:
Auston Matthews returned to the ice for the optional skate after being unavailable for yesterday’s practice while he gets over his illness. Ilya Lyubushkin has also returned to the ice after returning to California for a few days to welcome his new daughter into the world.
The Leafs have used Nick Robertson and Connor Dewar as placeholders for Matthews between Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi, and pretty clearly that indicates that Sheldon Keefe has no interest in breaking up his top line and reuniting Matthews with Marner.
As for Lyubushkin, he will likely be back with Rielly tonight as well and Timothy Liljegren with Timothy Liljegren as a placeholder for him the past couple of days. Both Liljegren and Lyubushkin could be the player sitting and it would be understandable, you could put Benoit or Edmundson in that consideration as well but given that Keefe has been purposeful in putting Edmundson with Brodie, but the health status difference is a good enough reason for sitting Liljegren over the others.
While there is always an allure of the mystery box and what happens if the Leafs go to Joseph Woll, Ilya Samsonov hasn’t given the Leafs a reason to give up on him in this series and he’ll start again tonight. The Leafs concerns around goal production.
Until William Nylander is on the ice for the Leafs in a Game, it’s pretty hard to view him as a lock for the lineup, although if he does slot in it will likely be alongside Holmberg and Jarnkrok on the third line and on the top powerplay unit. (More on Nylander can be found here and here.)
As David Alter states, the movement of Robertson to the fourth line is an encouraging sign for Nylander being in. It also looks like Connor Dewar is the odd man out. Dewar has been effective in his fourth line role with Kampf and Reaves, but Robertson has also been solid in making the most of his limited icetime, creating scoring chances when he’s been on the ice. Given the Leafs struggle to produce offence, taking Robertson out would have been a step backward, even if it means breaking up a fourth line that has been exceeding their expectations.
Great news for the Leafs on the McMann front and if they can hold on long enough to get McMann back in their lineup, the Leafs suddenly look like a team that has four very challenging lines to match against, assuming everyone is playing at their best.
Lack of change to the Tavares line aside, this should be an encouraging lineup card for the Leafs.
Game 4 is tonight at 8pm ET.

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