Leafs AM skate notes: Sheldon Keefe keeps lineup card a mystery as Game 3 vs. Lightning looms
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Barden1 month ago
It’s time to head to Tampa — a city riddled with thunderous hockey fans — following two games in Toronto with Game 3 on the horizon for Saturday night.
The Maple Leafs opted to give their players an optional morning skate ahead of their third game of the series against the Lightning.
Among the players that took the ice for Toronto: John Tavares and Ryan O’Reilly, who both had great games for the Maple Leafs on Thursday night inside Scotiabank Arena.
When it comes to lineup decisions, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe elected to keep it simple, and leave everyone questioning what we might see from Toronto on Saturday.
One interesting tidbit, which is courtesy of Sportsnet’s Luke Fox, is that Timothy Liljegren didn’t stay out for extra work following the Maple Leafs’ morning skate.
With Keefe electing not to show his hand, it could be possible we see the 23-year-old play in his first game of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight.
Ilya Samsonov is set to be Toronto’s starter for Game 3 after stopping 20 of 22 shots on Thursday night. It was a great game from the 26-year-old and he’ll hope to follow it up with another big performance in front of the Tampa Bay crowd.
When it comes to the Lightning’s morning skate, there were a few notable names who took the ice after missing Thursday’s game. Those players, in particular, could be in Tampa’s lineup on Saturday night.
Victor Hedman skated in a regulars jersey after missing Game 2 and is slated to once again be a game-time decision ahead of Game 3. “Cross our fingers he’ll be ready to go,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper following Tampa’s morning skate.
The 32-year-old defenceman took line rushes with Nick Perbix, according to TSN’s Chris Johnston, meaning his return could be more likely than not.
Another notable name who skated on Saturday morning was Mikey Eyssimont. He missed Thursday’s game with an undisclosed injury after taking a huge hit from Jake McCabe in Game 1.
It’s worth noting that the 26-year-old did skate prior to Game 2 in Toronto but didn’t end up playing. So, it’s always possible that happens again, though it’s just as possible that he’s in the Lightning’s Game 3 lineup.
Erik Cernak — one of Tampa’s most important defencemen — did not skate on Saturday morning. He’s projected to miss his second-straight game following a elbow to the head from Michael Bunting, which cost him three games.
Andrei Vasilevskiy did not take part in the morning skate though that’s been normal throughout the regular season, Lightning beat writer Chris Krenn reports.
As the series goes on, each game gets more important, and if Toronto can find a win on Saturday night in Tampa, their future could be more bright than dim. If Tampa wins, they could have a chance to put a stranglehold on this series in their own building on Monday night.
Game 3 between the Maple Leafs and Lightning inside Amalie Arena is set for 7PM with puck drop coming a couple of minutes later.
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