Maple Leafs look to turn page against Lightning as road trip continues in Tampa Bay
Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
By Joseph Zita1 month ago
It wasn’t the start the Toronto Maple Leafs had hoped for on this five-game road trip when they opened up with a loss Thursday night in Florida. However, they can quickly turn the page with a win when they face another divisional opponent tonight and yet another rematch from the 2023 playoffs in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After picking up two wins in their first two games to start the season, the Maple Leafs have now dropped two consecutive games to Chicago and Florida despite playing a little better all-around than they did in the first two games.
Maple Leafs’ lineup:
Minimal adjustments have been made to the Maple Leafs’ lineup since the start of the season, but after bumping Matthew Knies up a line, Sheldon Keefe has made one more. This time, it comes in the bottom six.
According to Mark Masters of TSN, these were the lines at yesterday’s practice:
The top two lines remain the same from the previous game, but the bottom two lines look a little different. Earlier yesterday, the Maple Leafs announced they recalled forward Pontus Holmberg from the Marlies and sent defenseman Simon Benoit down.
With this transaction, David Kampf goes from the fourth-line center to the third-line center and Pontus Holmberg is now pencilled in as the fourth-line center, which means 19-year-old Fraser Minten is an extra and projected to be a scratch tonight. Minten hasn’t looked terrible in his first taste of NHL action, but it’s clear that he’s taken a little longer to adjust to the speed of regular season hockey.
The defence pairings remain the same after Keefe and the staff made one adjustment ahead of the previous game when they swapped Timothy Liljegren and John Klingberg. No goalie has been confirmed as the starter tonight, but based on Masters’ lines, it looks as though Samsonov will be getting the start in Tampa Bay.
Tyler Bertuzzi also spoke to the media and said he should be good to go after Keefe told the media that he has been dealing with something.
The Tampa Bay Lightning of October 2023 aren’t the same team Toronto faced in the 2023 playoffs or the 2022 playoffs, and they for sure aren’t the same team that won back-to-back cups in 2020 and 2021, but they are still a great team despite the turnover in some areas of their roster. Over the last two years, they’ve lost contributors to their cup teams. Names such as Ryan McDonagh, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Ross Colton, and Patrick Maroon have moved onto different teams. However, they’ve quickly turned over some of those areas with younger players who play a similar style and are looking to return to the finals after being eliminated by this Maple Leafs team in round one last spring.
For tonight’s game, these are the projected lines for the Lightning based on their line rushes in practice yesterday:
As you can see from these lines, there might be some names you don’t recognize and some names that are brand new to the Lightning this season. It’s also worth noting that Andrei Vasilevskiy has been sidelined to start the season due to off-season surgery and will remain out for the next month and a bit.
Players to watch:
That third line with David Kampf up there alongside Max Domi and Calle Jarnkrok is a line to watch tonight. With Minten now projected to be a scratch following the recent call-up of Pontus Holmberg, that third line could be a line that could hem opponents in their own zone. We know that both Kampf and Jarnkrok are pretty responsible defensively, and although Max Domi has had a slow start to his Leafs tenure, he’s a playmaker who could maybe benefit from playing with a shooter like Jarnkrok and a center who is pretty responsible in all three zones on the ice in Kampf.
The second line with Knies, Tavares, and Nylander will also be worth watching. Keefe made this change ahead of the last game, and it’s only been one game so a proper assessment will be good with more games under their belt together. Though Knies has been held off of the point sheet in his first few games, he’s looked just as comfortable as he has in years past and could see an uptick in his production alongside a pair of veteran stars. Toronto needs more contributions up and down their lineup. Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Tavares can’t be scoring every night. There has to be a time when the bottom-six finds its game and starts getting on the scoreboard more consistently.
You can catch the Maple Leafs and Lightning in action tonight on Sportsnet Ontario and CBC at 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
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