Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Maple Leafs, Jets renew heated rivalry in first half of a home-and-home series
By Joseph Zita1 month ago
As we inch closer to the 2024 NHL All-Star Game in Toronto next weekend, there are still games to be played. The Toronto Maple Leafs have two this week, both coming against arguably the best team in hockey, the Winnipeg Jets, as both teams get prepared to begin a rare home-and-home with each other. Tonight’s matchup between the newly heated rivalry marks the first meeting between the two clubs since their meeting in Toronto last season on January 19th, 2023, which saw the Maple Leafs defeat the Jets, 4-1.
If you missed some Toronto – Winnipeg games over the past two seasons after their lengthy 10-game season series during the 2020-21 season in the Canadian Division, you might be confused as to why I said ‘newly heated rivalry’ – well, these two teams have quickly grown to dislike each other and to say the last four meetings have been eventful would be a massive understatement.
I’m not sure when things started to escalate between the two sides. But one moment in particular that I remember from the Canadian Divison in 2021 was when Joe Thornton and Nikolaj Ehlers went at each other in one of the games. Thornton fed him a couple of solid cross-checks, and Ehlers delivered a spear to Thornton, which caused a massive scrum in the corner of the ice. From that point onward, the next four games between the two teams delivered some entertaining hockey for the fans.
Auston Matthews scored his 50th goal of the season against the Jets during his MVP season, Neal Pionk delivered a knee-on-knee hit on Rasmus Sandin, and Jason Spezza took matters into his own hands and delivered a low hit to Pionk, which warranted a suspension, among a handful of other fights between guys like Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford, Logan Stanley, and Brenden Dillon.
The only downside to this rivalry renewing tonight and this weekend is some players are no longer with either team. Simmonds and Pierre-Luc Dubois aren’t playing for Toronto or Winnipeg anymore, Stanley is not an everyday player for the Jets, and Clifford has been a full-time Toronto Marlie for a while now.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup:
Matthew Knies – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Pontus Holmberg – 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 – Conor Timmins
One lineup note: Sheldon Keefe confirmed to the media earlier this morning that Tyler Bertuzzi will not be available for tonight’s game – he and his wife are expecting. Nick Robertson, Pontus Holmberg and Bobby McMann all remain in the lineup. But when Bertuzzi is available to return, who comes out?
Winnipeg Jets’ lineup:
Kyle Connor – Vladislav Namestnikov – Nikolaj Ehlers
Cole Perfetti – Dominic Toninato – Alex Iafallo
Nino Niederreiter – Adam Lowry – Mason Appleton
Morgan Barron – Rasmus Kupari – Axel Jonsson-Fjallby
Josh Morrissey – Dylan DeMelo
Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk
Dylan Samberg – Nate Schmidt
Ilya Samsonov (TOR) vs Laurent Brossoit (WPG)
Sportsnet, 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)
(Projected lineups from dailyfaceoff.com)
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