Toronto Maple Leafs promote Matthew Knies, Jake McCabe skating again
Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
By James Reeve1 month ago
With results not going their way, losing four straight, the Toronto Maple Leafs need to find some answers to get their season back on track and today’s practice lines have given a glimpse into what head coach Sheldon Keefe is trying to do.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have not won since a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on October 27th, with losses coming against the Nashville Predators (3-2 OT), Los Angeles Kings (4-1), Boston Bruins (3-2 SO) and Buffalo Sabres (6-4), and many have been calling on Keefe to make some changes to the lineup in hopes of finding a way to get back on track.
With a Monday night tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning approaching, Sunday’s practice lines show a bit of a shake-up that fans have been clamouring for.
Matthew Knies Promoted
The one player consistently looked at by fans as a hope for improved play outside of the team’s Core Four has been Matthew Knies, who has looked good so far this season but has arguably not been utilised to the best of his abilities. Often featuring in the bottom six most nights, Knies might benefit from an increased role.
It looks as if Keefe has finally realised this is the way forward, as he has placed the Leafs’ rookie on the top line with stars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who are coming off a signature night in the team’s 6-4 loss to Buffalo, with Matthews picking up his third hat trick of the season and Marner picking up four points with a goal and three helpers.
The team have lacked secondary scoring outside of their best players, and having Knies bumped up to the top line could go a long way to helping the team overcome some of their early season struggles in front of the net.
With Knies promoted, it should see him feature more often in the offensive zone, where he has started just 45.2% of the time so far this season, and give him more opportunities to improve on his four points (two goals, two assists) through the opening 11 games of the season.
Along with Knies being promoted, Tyler Bertuzzi also finds himself back in the top six alongside the red-hot John Tavares and William Nylander, with Keefe having recently spoken about wanting more from certain players, even specifically mentioning how Bertuzzi needed to simplify his game.
This chopping and changing sees a new-look third line formed with Max Domi, Pontus Holmberg and Calle Järnkrok partnered together, while David Kämpf centres the fourth line alongside Ryan Reaves and Noah Gregor.
Jake McCabe Skates Again
That’s not the only significant development at morning skate today, as Jake McCabe has made a return to the ice following his spell recovering from a groin injury.
Returning alongside partner John Klingberg, seeing McCabe return to practice will be viewed highly positively after the recent disappointing news regarding Timothy Liljegren and his own injury ruling him out of action long enough to be placed on LTIR.
With the Leafs struggling a lot in their own zone, suffering injuries at inopportune times, having McCabe return and potentially able to slot into the lineup soon is a significant boost, especially considering the nine blocked shots and 12 hits thrown through just seven games to date.
Mark Giordano was reported absent from practice this morning, though this will likely just be a rest day for the 40-year-old, who has averaged 18:01 of ice time through the opening games of the season so far.
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