Maple Leafs host the Lightning as they look to snap out of their funk
Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
By Joseph Zita1 month ago
With an opportunity to get back in the win column against a tired Sabres team who played the night prior, the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their fourth straight game to begin this lengthy homestand.
Tonight, they try to turn things around, but it won’t be easy because it’s against the Tampa Bay Lightning. And although Toronto handled them pretty well in their last meeting, that was their previous meeting, this is now.
Maple Leafs’ lineup:
After consecutive games rolling out the same lineup and not seeing positive results, Sheldon Keefe has shaken up the forward lines a little, and they will debut against the Lightning tonight. According to Mark Masters of TSN, these were the lines at practice yesterday:
Matthew Knies has moved from the bottom six to the top line alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, and David Kampf has returned to the fourth line with Holmberg now demoted to the Marlies. Calle Jarnkrok has been moved down from the top line to the third line to play right wing alongside Domi.
Earlier this morning, the Maple Leafs PR account announced the club has called up Nick Robertson. With this move, Sheldon Keefe has confirmed that Robertson will be on the third line alongside Domi and Jarnkrok, where Holmberg took line rushes in practice yesterday.
The defence pairings see a minor change with Liljegren, Timmins, and McCabe out. Simon Benoit will make his Maple Leafs debut tonight, with Max Lajoie sitting this one out after his Maple Leafs debut last game.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are in a similar position as the Toronto Maple Leafs. Two teams with high aspirations but have had a mediocre start to the season. The Lightning sit third in the Atlantic division with a record of 5-3-3, just one point ahead of Toronto.
The last time these two teams played each other was down in Tampa Bay just two weeks ago, and it was Toronto who came out victorious with a 4-3 overtime win.
Here are the Lightning’s projected lines for tonight’s contest, according to Gabby Shirley:
Like the last meeting between these teams, you might not recognize some of the names on the Lightning this season, given the recent turnover to part of their roster after losing a couple of guys in the off-season. However, this is still a dangerous team with Stamkos, Kucherov, Point and Hedman there.
By the looks of these line rushes in practice, it looks like Tampa Bay is electing to stretch the talent down the lineup by having Stamkos on the third line with Nick Paul and Conor Sheary, with Cirelli on his own line, and the top line being stacked with Hagel, Point and Kucherov.
The defence pairings are pretty straightforward and are similar to the last time these two teams played each other, with the only change being Calvin de Haan playing over Zach Bogosian tonight.
For the goalie, Jonas Johansson will get the nod tonight, which will be his second start against the Maple Leafs this season.
Players to watch:
Leafs players to watch for tonight are everybody who is not included in the core four. The lack of depth scoring has been a primary issue for this team this season. Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Tavares have combined for 26 goals and 55 points. Meanwhile, the other 16 players who have played at least one game this season have combined for nine goals and 38 points.
The struggle to get production from the bottom six has been evident through 11 games this season, and although I won’t say the reason for some of the losses is solely on the secondary scoring, it’s part of the issue as to why they’ve lost some of these games. Depth scoring and, of course, the blueline have been not up to par thus far.
The Leafs need to see more out of not only Bertuzzi, Domi and Knies but also Gregor and even Kampf. The move that has sent Knies up to play with Matthews and Marner could benefit him immensely. Bertuzzi and Domi, however, remain on the same lines, and all we can do is hope they start putting the puck in the back of the net because we know they aren’t this bad.
Gregor and Kampf aren’t known as players who will put up lots of points, but when both guys have just three points between them through 11 games, it’s concerning, especially when Kampf, who is known to be good defensively, is having a terrible season on the defensive side of the puck.
You can catch the Maple Leafs and Lightning tonight in action on Sportsnet. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
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