Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto’s new look top-six makes its debut as the Maple Leafs host the Panthers
By Joseph Zita2 months ago
After winning four consecutive games heading into this past weekend – two in Canada and two in Sweden – the Toronto Maple Leafs have dropped two straight to non-playoff teams, and with a tight Atlantic division, the three upcoming games at home are even more essential for them to pick up some crucial points. And it all begins tonight against a familiar team, the Florida Panthers.
Maple Leafs’ lineup:
Although Toronto has seen success ever since Sheldon Keefe mixed up the lineup, their last two games, along with the lack of production from the top line over the past two weeks, have forced Keefe’s hand to make some more changes to the forward lines.
The changes are coming soon after the outcry of fans begging Keefe to split up Matthews and Marner so he can reunite Nylander with Matthews and Marner with Tavares. These two duos have chemistry, and we know what they can do on the ice.
Outside the new-look first and second line, the bottom-six and defence pairings remain the same ahead of their matchup against the Florida Panthers. Toronto went with an 11/7 lineup against the Penguins on Saturday, and given the 3-2 loss, they might be thinking of returning to the traditional 12/6 lineup.
If that is the case, Ryan Reaves will slot back into the lineup after missing Saturday’s game. Conor Timmins also remains in the lineup and will play in his third game since returning from injury, and it looks like Simon Benoit will have the edge on William Lagesson.
Joseph Woll is also the projected starter tonight after departing the ice first at their optional skate this morning, according to Mark Masters.
Similar to Toronto’s previous three games, they will be playing an opponent in the second half of a back-to-back after Florida took care of business last night against the Ottawa Senators.
Given they’re playing two games on consecutive nights, with no skate in between, here were the Panthers’ lines in last night’s game.
Sam Bennett, who missed the first meeting against Toronto this season, has returned from his injury, and I’m sure he will get a lovely ovation from Scotiabank Arena tonight, or so I hope. Two other notable names who have returned to the Panthers’ lineup are Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour. This is a different-looking Panthers team Toronto will be playing against tonight, and it’ll be interesting to see how they match up against them after dropping the first meeting 3-1 back in Florida on October 19th.
However, one area that brings slight optimism for Toronto in tonight’s game, is Sergei Bobrovsky already played last night in Ottawa, so there is a high chance Toronto will see Anthony Stolarz between the pipes and not the man who seems to own Toronto lately.
Players to watch:
With Toronto’s top two lines looking a little different after the swap of Marner and Nylander, they will be the ones to watch tonight in hopes they find instant chemistry against a good Florida team. We know Matthews and Nylander have chemistry as well as Tavares and Marner, so Sheldon Keefe going to these two duos shouldn’t bring much worry.
The defence will also be an area where I’ll focus on. The Panthers are a team that loves to get in on the forecheck, cycle the puck, and finish their checks. Toronto’s defence struggled with that when they played Florida in the playoffs last season, so it’ll be interesting to see how they adjust things if they even do.
You can catch the Maple Leafs and Panthers tonight in action on TSN4. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
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