Matthew Knies and Ilya Samsonov spotted at morning skate: Leafs practice notes
Photo credit:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
12 days ago
As the Leafs head into Game 5 hoping to extend the series by another few days, a few key pieces of their team were present at the morning skate.
Although Matthew Knies and Ilya Samsonov were already ruled out for tonight’s game, the fact that both were skating today is an encouraging sign nonetheless. Sheldon Keefe reiterated to the press that both would be absent from the game but was happy to see how long both stayed for the morning skate, signalling both could return soon if the Leafs are able to keep their season alive.
Knies was initially ruled unlikely to return for the second round due to suffering a concussion in Game 2, while Samsonov sustained an upper-body injury after colliding with Luke Schenn early in the second period back in Game 3.
Given his importance to the team’s long-term future and the fact he got a concussion, the Leafs will need to exercise caution with Knies and should not force him to play unless he feels good enough to participate. As for Samsonov, he should not be far removed from his return given that he was back on the ice merely five days after getting injured. Having said that, the Leafs are going to continue to rely on Joseph Woll given that he is the only fully healthy goalie on the active roster right now.
Speaking of Woll, he was seen at morning skate in the starter’s net to confirm the obvious that he will get the nod for Game 5.
Matt Murray will once again be the backup goalie, but whether he maintains this role once Samsonov is ready to return remains to be seen.
The morning skate is not the best at indicating which way the roster will look that night, especially given that most of the players listed as being present have often taken part in the morning skate. If I were to make an educated guess also to how the Leafs may set their lines, they will likely use the ones that won them Game 4.
One player to keep an eye on is David Kampf, who was on the receiving end of a heavy collision with Radko Gudas during Game 4 and was absent for a good chunk of the second period. While Kampf appears to be good enough to play, I would imagine the Leafs will take precautions and limit his minutes a bit more than usual.
Toronto now has the benefit of having the last change once more, but that has clearly not been enough to help them in these playoffs as they are 1-4 at home going into tonight’s game. Noel Acciari said the Leafs are going to try and prepare for the game as if it is on the road while Keefe believes the Leafs are due for a solid showing at Scotiabank Arena, but it’s going to take a concerted effort from the top dogs to ensure the series goes back to Florida on Sunday.
With William Nylander and Mitch Marner finding twine on Wednesday, Auston Matthews and John Tavares remain goalless in this series and that needs to change quickly. Both Michael Bunting and Luke Schenn told the media that Matthews is playing well in spite of the lack of goals, and I would imagine they and the rest of the team feel the same about Tavares.
The lineup from Game 4 had plenty of scoring chances go their way, but maintaining that and also getting more goals will do wonders for improving their chances of forcing a Game 6. The Leafs are still looking to score three goals or more in a game for the first time since their 4-1 comeback against the Lightning back in the first round, having gone six consecutive games scoring just two times.
Tonight’s pivotal Game 5 is set to start at 7 p.m. and you can catch the action on Sportsnet and CBC.
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