Back to work for The Passion Line: Leafs Tailgate
Photo credit:Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Alberga25 days ago
Following some rare practice time, the Leafs (35-15-8) will return to the grindstone tonight when they host the Minnesota Wild (32-21-5) at Scotiabank Arena.
Sheldon Keefe’s squad has been off since Tuesday night when they dismantled the Sabres 6-3 in Buffalo. The newly coined ‘Passion Line’ of John Tavares, Ryan O’Reilly and Mitch Marner combined for 13 points on the night. Furthermore, the Leafs have scored 14 goals in three outings since Kyle Dubas pulled off the big trade with St. Louis a week ago today.
That said, let’s be honest, Toronto’s had a soft schedule over the past few weeks. In fact, tonight will mark their first game against a team who was in a playoff spot at the time of the game since they played Boston on February 1st. It’s been a while.
Speaking of the Wild, they’re coming off a 2-0 shutout victory over the Blue Jackets in Columbus last night and are clinging to third in the Central Division right now. Dean Evason’s squad has won four in a row.
Toronto took the opener of the two-game season series, 4-3, in Saint Paul on November 25th.
TIME: 7 PM ET (TSN)
MIN Filip Gustavsson – CONFIRMED (15-8-2, 2.11, 0.928, 1 SO)
TOR Ilya Samsonov – CONFIRMED (20-7-2, 2.40, 0.915, 3 SO)
WHAT’S THE PASSION LINE HAVE IN STORE FOR AN ENCORE PERFORMANCE?
Coming off a 13-point outing in Buffalo, the new-look trio of Tavares, O’Reilly and Marner have wasted no time forming some serious chemistry. I can only wonder what they have in store for an encore performance now that they’ve had a few days to chill out this week. Furthermore, I’m curious to see if and when Sheldon Keefe starts tinkering with some different combinations up front. I know he said the other day that this line’s here to stay, but I think now’s the perfect time for experimentation. Aside from the battle for home ice in Round 1 with Tampa, at this point, Toronto’s just playing out the regular season slate. Might as well try a few things.
REPEAT THE START?
Just like the game in Buffalo, a hot start could be pivotal in Toronto’s quest for two points night. Firstly, Minnesota’s been playing well lately, so you know they’re going to come out hard. Secondly, as mentioned, the Wild will be skating in the second half of a back-to-back. One peak back at Sunday’s game in Chicago for the Maple Leafs will tell you everything you need to know on that front. I thought Toronto had Buffalo in a favourable spot on Tuesday, and suffice it is to say, I feel the same way about tonight’s game. Let’s see how it goes.
WILL SANDIN RETURN? IF SO, HOW WILL HE LOOK?
Judging by Thursday’s practice lines, it seems likely Rasmus Sandin will return to the lineup after missing two contests with a lower-body injury. If that’s the case, we could get another look at what Toronto’s roster could look like for the opening game against Tampa —barring injuries or trades, of course. With the trade deadline a week away, the Leafs have to start solidifying their roster and looking ahead to the stretch drive. They may still have 20-plus games left, but trust when I say this, time will fly and next thing you know, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be here. It goes without saying, but if the Leafs are going to do anything significant this spring, Rasmus Sandin will need to play up to expectation.
Courtesy our friends at PointsBet Canada, here’s tonight’s lines & odds:
(As of Noon EDT)
Auston Matthews Anytime Goal (-120)
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