Knies slots in as Leafs brace for potential Michael Bunting suspension with new-look lines: Leafs Practice Notes
Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Barden1 month ago
The Maple Leafs kept practice short and sweet on Wednesday following a 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning the night prior.
Toronto practiced for only 20 minutes — keeping it very, very light — ahead of game two on Thursday night.
Michael Bunting skated as an extra at practice as he awaits his supplementary discipline from NHL Player Safety. The 27-year-old was ejected from Tuesday’s game following a hit to the head on Lightning defenceman Erik Cernak.
Bunting has a hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Wednesday afternoon, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.
Taking his place in the lineup is Matthew Knies could make his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday. Ryan O’Reilly has moved down to third line centre, alongside the NHL rookie, and Noel Acciairi.
A trio like that — with the size, pace, leadership, and physicality — could do some damage against the Lightning in game two if they’re kept together.
Toronto also switched around the top six, placing Calle Jarnkrok with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. They also returned Alex Kerfoot to a line alongside John Tavares and William Nylander.
Following practice on Tuesday, Keefe elaborated on the lines saying, “I wouldn’t read too much into what we did today”, per Sports Illustrated’s David Alter.
When it comes to who starts in goal for Thursday’s game against Tampa, it’s once again going to be Ilya Samsonov, says Keefe. Although Joseph Woll did come in for the third period on Tuesday, it’s clear that Samsonov’s leash is longer, as it should be.
The 26-year-old has played great hockey for the Maple Leafs all season long and he shouldn’t lose the net after one game in which the team in front of him wasn’t playing well.
Speaking of the Lightning, all four of Victor Hedman, Mikey Eyssimont, Ian Cole, and Cernak weren’t on the ice for practice. Eyssimont took a big hit from Jake McCabe during Tuesday’s game and went to Tampa’s dressing room shortly after.
Hedman left the game late in the first period and didn’t return to the game. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said after the game that the team is hopeful that the 32-year-old “should be okay.”
Cole played the second-most of any Lightning player on Tuesday, so it’s very possible that him missing practice could be for rest reasons.
It’ll be very interesting to see how Keefe and the Maple Leafs counter Tampa on Thursday — both lineup wise and in-game adjustments. Toronto didn’t look good in game one but you cannot count out any team after a single game.
Both teams will face off once again, on Thursday, with puck drop coming just after 7PM ET inside Scotiabank Arena.
Recent articles from Nick Barden