Maple Leafs remain short-handed as they host Panthers in potential playoff preview

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
17 days ago
For the first time since November 28th, the Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the team that ended their playoffs last year, the Florida Panthers. After a four-month wait since their previous meeting, the Maple Leafs and Panthers will meet tonight for the third time this season and the first of two in the next two weeks to end the season.
It’s not guaranteed, but a first-round matchup between these two Atlantic division rivals is a real possibility, given the current standings. The teams are close in the standings, and if all goes right and Toronto wins most of their remaining games, Boston and Florida will have to lose at the same rate for the Maple Leafs to win the division or grab the second seed. It’s still possible for Toronto to pull off the upset here, but it’s unlikely.
However, as Toronto prepares for a potential playoff preview with Florida, they’ll continue being without five regulars as Mitch Marner, Calle Jarnkrok, Morgan Rielly, Timothy Liljegren, and Joel Edmundson remain sidelined with injuries with just a little over two weeks to go in the regular season.
The good news, however, is Marner joined the team for practice late last week and is scheduled to join them again tomorrow with a return to game action shortly. Rielly, however, is still listed as day-to-day, and today was the first time he was on the ice since missing all three games last week.
Although tonight is a good test for Toronto given their opponent and the possibility of playing Florida in the first or second round, whether they win or lose tonight, it’ll be tough to evaluate with so many regulars out of the lineup that will be in the lineup come playoff time.
A win would be great for this Maple Leafs team tonight. If they find a way to pick up the two points, they’ll sit just four points back of the Panthers with a game in hand with eight games left on the schedule, including a fourth and final meeting down in Florida on April 16th.

Pregame details:

Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Auston Matthews – Max Domi
Bobby McMann – John Tavares – William Nylander
Matthew Knies – Pontus Holmberg – Nick Robertson
Connor Dewar – David Kampf – Ryan Reaves
Simon Benoit – Jake McCabe
T.J. Brodie – Ilya Lyubushkin
Mark Giordano – Conor Timmins
One lineup note: With no one new back from injury, Sheldon Keefe has elected to go with the same lineup that won in Buffalo on Saturday night. The top line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Auston Matthews, and Max Domi remains together, and after scoring his 60th goal of the season, Matthews will look to set a new career high in goals tonight.

Florida Panthers’ lineup:

Carter Verhaeghe – Alexsander Barkov – Sam Reinhart
Evan Rodrigues – Sam Bennett – Matthew Tkachuk
Eetu Luostarinen – Anton Lundell – Vladimir Tarasenko
Jonah Gadjovich – Kevin Stenlund -Ryan Lomberg
Gustav Forsling – Aaron Ekblad
Niko Mikkola – Brandon Montour
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Dmitry Kulikov

Projected goalies:

Ilya Samsonov (TOR) vs Sergei Bobrovsky (FLA)
After returning to the crease this past Saturday for the first time since exiting last Saturday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers, Ilya Samsonov has been confirmed as the starter for tonight’s game against the Florida Panthers, giving him consecutive starts for the first time since mid-March.


Sportsnet, 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)
(Projected lineups from dailyfaceoff.com)

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