Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Sheldon Keefe swaps Marner and Nylander ahead of rematch against the Blue Jackets
By Joseph Zita2 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ last game against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night was one to forget about if you are a fan of the club. A humiliating 9-3 loss at the hands of a divisional opponent who is well out of a playoff spot at Christmas time should leave a sour taste in your mouths, and with the Columbus Blue Jackets next on their schedule tonight, Toronto needs to come prepared.
It was just last week that these two teams played each other in Toronto, and although the box score says the Blue Jackets won 6-5 in overtime, it was a much different story through the first 40 minutes of that game. Columbus embarrassed Toronto through the first two periods, scoring five goals on Ilya Samsonov and shutting out one of the highest-scoring teams in the league. As everyone knows by now, they scored five unanswered goals on Columbus to force overtime, and although they came up short, they earned at least a point.
For tonight, if Toronto wants to rebound against another non-playoff team, they can’t play the way they did last week and Thursday night against the Sabres. And by the look of the lines at Maple Leafs practice yesterday, Sheldon Keefe is swapping Mitch Marner and William Nylander to potentially try and fix why they’ve lost two in a row.
Keefe elected to first swap the two wingers around late November ahead of their game against Florida. That switch of Marner and Nylander helped Toronto go on a lengthy point streak, and since then, they have a record of 6-2-3. The team has lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since mid-October, but it remains to be seen if switching them back will be the answer. The losses to the Rangers (5-2) and Sabres (9-3) were not because the top two lines were underperforming, but rather defensive breakdowns and goaltending issues.
However, for their game tonight against Columbus, they’ll hope the swap of Marner and Nylander can spark the team as a whole and get the top six to dominate the opposition. Toronto cannot afford to drop another game to a non-playoff team after losing in the fashion they did on Thursday night, and not to mention last week in overtime on home ice against this very Blue Jackets team.
William Nylander is currently on a ten-game point streak (three goals and 12 assists), and Mitch Marner, despite going pointless in back-to-back games, has 14 points in his last ten games (eight goals and six assists). Both players will look to continue this on their new lines.
Maple Leafs’ lineup:
Matthew Knies – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – William Nylander
Nick Robertson – Max Domi – Calle Jarnkrok
Bobby McMann – David Kampf – Noah Gregor
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Jake McCabe – Timothy Liljegren
Simon Benoit – William Lagesson
Blue Jackets’ lineup:
Johnny Gaudreau – Adam Fantilli – Justin Danforth
Yegor Chinakov – Dmitri Voronkov – Kirill Marchenko
Kent Johnson – Cole Sillinger – Emil Bemstrom
Brendan Gaunce – Sean Kuraly – Alexandre Texier
Zach Werenski – David Jiricek
Ivan Provorov – Andrew Peeke
Jake Bean – Erik Gudbranson
Martin Jones (TOR) vs Elvis Merzlikins (CBJ)
Sportsnet, 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT
(Stats from Hockey-Reference.com)
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