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Rasmus Sandin and the Capitals return to Toronto amid short-handed Maple Leafs lineup

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Photo credit:Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
21 days ago
After their underwhelming 6-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs are down to just 11 games on the schedule before the playoffs begin. As they start the final three weeks of the regular season tonight, they’ll take on the Washington Capitals for the third and final meeting.
It’s taken until the final stretch, but Rasmus Sandin will return to the city that drafted him 29th overall in the 2018 draft for the first time since being dealt to the Capitals ahead of the 2023 trade deadline.
The 24-year-old blue-liner has already played his former team. Still, tonight marks his first visit to Toronto since he played his final home game for the blue and white on February 18th, 2023, which was Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari’s first game as a Maple Leaf.
Anyway, if you looked at this game on the calendar two months ago, you may have thought that this game was just another regular season game on the schedule with probably no playoff implications. However, it’s now the total opposite. Washington has turned their season around, going 13-5-1 in their last 19 games, and currently holding onto the second wild card spot with 81 points, two points ahead of Detroit with a game in hand.
Toronto, however, has hit a mini bump in the road over their past ten games, going 5-4-1, while a team like Tampa Bay, who is 8-1-1 in their last ten games, is suddenly two points back despite playing an extra game. The playoff race is still kind of close. If things go correctly, Toronto could pull off the comeback and win the Atlantic division or finish second ahead of Boston or Florida, pending those teams losing at the same rate Toronto wins the bulk of their remaining 11 games.
But it won’t be an easy final 11 games for Toronto, especially tonight. The team is still without two important wingers, Mitch Marner and Calle Jarnkrok, they will be without recently acquired Joel Edmundson, who has already been ruled out for tonight and Saturday night’s game with an injury, and Morgan Rielly, who missed Tuesday’s game with a minor injury, is listed as day-to-day.
With four regulars out of the lineup, Sheldon Keefe dropped another bomb post-morning skate, saying Auston Matthews, who is one goal shy from his second 60-goal campaign and trying to hunt down 70, becoming the first player to do so since the 1990s, no matter if it seems challenging at this point, will be a game-time decision due to an illness.
If Matthews can’t go, Toronto is down five regulars and the potential to drop to a wildcard spot just got higher.

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 – Noah Gregor
Jake McCabe – Timothy Liljegren
T.J. Brodie – Ilya Lyubushkin
Simon Benoit – Conor Timmins

Washington Capitals’ lineup:

Alex Ovechkin – Connor McMichael – T.J. Oshie
Max Pacioretty – Dylan Strome – Ivan Miroshnichenko
Aliaksei Protas – Hendrix Lapierre – Michael Sgarbossa
Beck Malenstyn – Nic Dowd – Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Martin Fehervary – John Carlson
Rasmus Sandin – Nick Jensen
Alexander Alexeyev – Trevor van Riemsdyk

Projected goalies:

Joseph Woll (TOR) vs Charlie Lindgren (WSH)
Despite Sheldon Keefe coming out postgame against Edmonton last week, saying Ilya Samsonov was going to be okay despite an injury scare, Joseph Woll will get his third consecutive start tonight against Washington, looking to bounce back from a poor start against New Jersey on Tuesday night.

Broadcast:

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

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