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News from the Rink: Kaše set to return, Kerfoot looks to stay hot in Leafs’ top-six
By Nick Richard2 years ago
Coming off a disappointing loss in Colorado on Saturday night, the Leafs were on the ice for practice on Monday ahead of a matchup with another tough opponent in the Pacific Division leading Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night. Monday’s skate brought with it some good news as @Ondrej Kase was a full participant in practice for the first time in almost a week, signaling his likely return to the lineup against Vegas. Head coach Sheldon Keefe said after practice that he is considered a game-time decision.
He joined the top line alongside @Michael Bunting and Auston Matthews as Matthews returned to the ice after he and @Jack Campbell were afforded maintenance days on Sunday. Campbell also returned to practice and appears set to make the start in the first half of Toronto’s back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Kaše has been quite a find for the Maple Leafs, signing a one-year deal for just $1.25 million after the Bruins decided not to extend him a qualifying offer in the offseason. He has excelled on the third line for most of the season, pairing up with @David Kampf to shoulder heavy defensive minutes while still managing to drive offense at an impressive rate. Kaše’s play has earned him a look higher in the lineup with @Mitch Marner missing time due to injury and with Marner now in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, Keefe is once again trusting the Czech winger with a first line role.
Kaše’s return bumps Alex Kerfoot back down to his familiar role on the left side of a line with @John Tavares and @William Nylander. Kerfoot has been scorching hot as of late, tallying two goals and six assists in his last three games. The BC native is up to 24 points through 33 games and is on pace to shatter his career-high of 43 points from his rookie season with Colorado. Kerfoot’s versatility has been a blessing and a curse for him in the past as he was shuffled around the lineup but never able to nail down a permanent home. That hasn’t been the case this season as he has solidified the Leafs’ top six, carving out a permanent spot on the wing and playing an effective complementary role with two of the team’s most talented players.
@Brett Seney is the odd man out from Saturday’s lineup as @Jason Spezza returns to the middle of the fourth line. He was flanked by @Nick Ritchie and Kyle Clifford at Monday’s skate with @Wayne Simmonds filling the right side of a third line that features Kämpf and @Ilya Mikheyev. Simmonds may not get around the rink as well as his two linemates but Keefe trusts the veteran forward to look after his defensive responsibilities, and he adds a bit more grease to that line when they get down low in the offensive zone.
There was a clear step up in intensity during Saturday’s contest after a couple of home games without fans in the building, and the Leafs’ players are excited to embrace the energy in one of the league’s liveliest rinks when they take on the Golden Knights on Tuesday. Following the collapse against Colorado, the Leafs will be looking to sustain that energy for a full 60 minutes this time around.
Keefe also offered an update of sorts on Marner and @Pierre Engvall, but it remains unclear when either player will be able to exit COVID protocols and rejoin the team.
(Statistics from EliteProspects.com)
(Contract information from PuckPedia.com)
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