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Maple Leafs visit Chicago for an afternoon matchup against the Blackhawks

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
3 months ago
It’s been a pretty empty schedule for the Toronto Maple Leafs lately, as they’ve played just four games in the last 14 days, but that quickly changes with them back in North America as they wrapped up their Global Series trip in Sweden. Today, the Leafs visit Chicago to take on the Blackhawks for the second and final time this season in a Black Friday afternoon matchup.

Maple Leafs’ lineup:

Coming off a successful sweep in Sweden, the Maple Leafs have continued to roll out the same lines since Sheldon Keefe debuted them against the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 6th, and Toronto has gone 5-0-1 during that stretch. For their matchup against the Blackhawks, they’ll likely be going with the same lineup, according to the practice lines.
According to Mark Masters of TSN, these were the lines at practice yesterday afternoon:
Calle Jarnkrok and John Klingberg were absent from practice. Jarnkrok, who took a shot off his leg during practice the day prior, got imaging done and will travel to Chicago with the team. Keefe said he will be a game-time decision.
Klingberg, well, a little less positive news. Yesterday, it was announced from the Maple Leafs PR account that the 31-year-old had been placed on LTIR due to his ongoing injury. There’s no specific timeline for his absence, but he will be sidelined for the foreseeable future due to the LTIR rules. Sheldon Keefe also confirmed Ilya Samsonov will get the start against Chicago this afternoon, and Joseph Woll will get the second half of the back-to-back against Kyle Dubas and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Opponents lineup:

It’s been a crazy 36 hours for the Chicago Blackhawks. Not only did they get embarrassed 7-3 by the Columbus Blue Jackets Wednesday night, but the club announced yesterday that forward Taylor Hall will undergo surgery on his knee and will miss the remainder of the 2023-24 season.
However, that wasn’t all. Corey Perry was a healthy scratch for their game against the Blue Jackets and was not at yesterday’s practice either. There is no update on what is going on with Perry other than this quote from head coach Luke Richardson:
So other than those storylines in Chicago, here are the lines they were running with at practice yesterday ahead of today’s game against Toronto, according to Ben Pope:
The forward lines and defence pairings are as follows for a rebuilding team. You may not know some of these names, and that’s okay. However, just because the Blackhawks are a rebuilding team and this team on paper looks awful, Toronto can’t take them lightly, and they need to go into Chicago to take care of business. We already witnessed Toronto drop two points to this team earlier in the season at home. They can’t afford to drop points to a team at the bottom of the standings again.

Players to watch:

Over in Sweden, it was the William Nylander show. Five points in two games, including the overtime winner to complete the sweep, highlighted the Maple Leafs’ weekend overseas, and the pending UFA will look to continue that in Chicago. As everyone knows, Nylander is now on a 17-game point streak to open the season, and with the way he has been playing this season, all eyes will be on him to see if he can continue his magic alongside Tyler Bertuzzi and John Tavares.
Conor Timmins, if activated off LTIR and given the final okay to play today, will have my attention. The 25-year-old was on a mission during the preseason before getting injured in a game by a hit along the boards. After his debut with Toronto last season, Timmins has impressed many people in a limited role, registering 14 points in 25 games, including his first career goal. He re-signed with the club on a two-year, $2.2M contract at the beginning of 2023, so you know he’s a part of their plans going forward, especially at that cap hit if he can produce at a reasonable rate.
The first line of Knies, Matthews and Marner had themselves a bounce-back game against the Wild after four consecutive underwhelming games. I’m looking at the top line to continue that into Chicago today, as Auston Matthews looks to take sole possession of first in the NHL in goals.
You can catch the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks this afternoon in action on TSN4. Puck drop is scheduled for 2:00 pm ET/11:00 am PT.
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