Photo credit:Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Maple Leafs close out back-to-back against Kyle Dubas and the Pittsburgh Penguins
By Joseph Zita3 months ago
It wasn’t a pretty effort from the Maple Leafs yesterday after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Chicago Blackhawks and ultimately losing in overtime, but lucky for them, Toronto can quickly turn the page because they’re back in action tonight against a familiar face and the Pittsburgh Penguins as they close out the second half of a back-to-back.
Maple Leafs’ lineup:
Toronto will enter Pittsburgh tonight not only looking to get back in the win column after dropping yesterday’s game to Chicago, but they are also playing against their former GM for the first time since his firing in the off-season, so you know the organization will want to win this one. On top of that, Auston Matthews will be skating in the 500th game of his career.
There was no skate today for the team, given they play two games in consecutive days, so all we can do is speculate what the lineup will look like come game time, and it’s likely we will see something very similar to yesterday’s lines. The changes I could see, if Keefe decides to make them, would be McMann or Steeves coming in for Reaves, or Benoit coming in for Lagesson or Giordano. It appears Joseph Woll will be between the pipes for the contest after Samsonov started against Chicago yesterday.
Just as a reminder, here were their lines yesterday:
Pittsburgh, like Toronto, are playing in the second half of a back-to-back after playing yesterday and wanting to get back in the win column after falling short to their opponent. With the Penguins playing back-to-back games without a skate in between games, here were their lines for yesterday’s game against the Sabres and what we could expect against Toronto tonight.
The Penguins also made a transaction earlier this morning, recalling Jansen Harkins from the AHL, so given it is a back-to-back, we could possibly see him inserted in the lineup tonight.
Aside from the Harkins move and the possibility of running the same lines, Toronto will likely see Tristin Jarry after Alex Nedeljkovic started for them last night. Jarry has a mediocre record of 6-8-0 but has strong numbers thus far. In 14 games this season, he has a .919 save percentage, a 2.67 goals-against average and three (!) shutouts.
Players to watch:
In yesterday’s pregame article, I mentioned Conor Timmins as someone to keep an eye on, given it was his first game of the season after missing the first 17 games due to injury. Well, it’s safe to say he looked a little rusty, and rightfully so. Not playing in two months will do that to you, but I expect him to find his game the more he plays.
William Nylander couldn’t extend his season-opening point streak to 18 games yesterday afternoon, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He hit every part of the net except the back of it, as he hit iron three times including one breakaway attempt in OT that went post-crossbar-post. Tonight, I expect him to get back on the scoresheet with his linemates, Tyler Bertuzzi and John Tavares, as all three were held off the scoresheet in a losing effort to the Blackhawks.
It’s no secret the top line of Matthew Knies, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner has been underwhelming as of late. All three players have combined for eight points in the team’s last six games (three goals and five assists) despite Toronto holding a 4-1-1 record in those six games.
Sheldon Keefe also spoke about Marner’s performance and summed up how every fan has been feeling. 20 points in 18 games is good, don’t get me wrong, but for Marner’s standards, someone who has been at a 100-point pace over the past three seasons, it could be a little better. I expect Marner and his line to get going five-on-five and to find the scoresheet against a solid Penguins team.
You can catch the Maple Leafs and Penguins tonight in action on Sportsnet. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
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