Two teams desperate for a win as the Maple Leafs face the Flames

Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
8 months ago
We’re now 16% through the Maple Leafs’ season, and it’s pretty clear this team is struggling to find their game. Their most recent loss against the Ottawa Senators has the fan base testing their patience, and with only four games in the next 14 days for Toronto, if they don’t turn things around here ASAP, it could get a whole lot ugly soon, and no team wants to sit on losses for an extended period. They need to string some wins together here to prevent that.
Tonight, it starts with a challenge against a Calgary Flames team who, like Toronto, hasn’t had the start to the season they had hoped for. However, the Flames’ start has been much worse, and they see themselves with a record of 4-7-1, which is only good enough for 6th in the Pacific, 14th in the West, and 30th in the league.

Maple Leafs’ lineup:

It’s been a rough start to the season, more so on the defensive side of the puck and the goaltending at times, but one bright spot is the new-look lines Sheldon Keefe put together over the past two games at home.
We’ll get another look at these new-look lines tonight when the Maple Leafs take on the Flames. However, there is one change to the lineup, and it’s worth talking about.
According to Mark Masters of TSN, these were the lines at practice yesterday, and as you can see above, Jake McCabe took line rushes in the top four, and John Klingberg was an extra defenceman on a pairing with Conor Timmins, who is still working his way back from injury.
Klingberg has struggled mightily to start his tenure with Toronto. He has just five assists in 13 games this season, with all five coming in the first five games. Also, only three of the helpers have come at even-strength. If he’s not producing at a reasonable rate offensively, he’s a negative asset to your team, given his poor play away from the puck.
Sheldon Keefe spoke with the media this morning and confirmed that Jake McCabe is returning to the lineup tonight for the first time since being injured in the Dallas game on their road trip and that John Klingberg will not dress. Keefe said that Klingberg has been dealing with an injury and will sit out for some rest. Take that how you will. Whether he is hurt or his play has sent him to the press box, at least Jake McCabe is returning tonight.
Joseph Woll has also been named tonight’s starter, and with Toronto on a back-to-back this weekend, Ilya Samsonov will likely get tomorrow night’s game against the red-hot Vancouver Canucks.

Flames’ lineup:

Although this game is crucial for the Maple Leafs, it’s also critical for the Flames. Their 4-7-1 start to the season was not expected, and this team continues to struggle with their play ever since the Tkachuk for Huberdeau, Weegar trade.
According to Pat Steinberg, these were the Flames’ lines at their practice Wednesday, with Kadri and Markstrom taking a maintenance day. However, it would later be revealed that Markstrom is currently day-to-day, given the recent call-up of Dustin Wolf to the NHL.
Head coach Ryan Huska confirmed to the media Dan Vladar will be tonight’s starter for the Calgary Flames.

Players to watch:

It’d be easy to say the player(s) to watch tonight are on the blue line and in the net. Although that is a good choice, and I bet everyone will have their eyes on the defenders and the goalie, given Toronto has allowed four or more goals in every home game this season, I’m continuing to watch how the new look lines play.
All three of the top-nine lines have a new look, and with more time together, it could be the best top-nine Toronto has had in a while, scoring-wise. Their play away from the puck… well, that could be an issue at times.
For an individual to watch tonight, I’m going with William Nylander, who is on a 13-game point streak to open the season. In 20 career games against the Flames, he has six goals and 15 assists for 21 points. There’s a solid chance we could see Nylander extend his point streak to 14 games tonight.
Don’t forget to check out the Calgary side of things over at Flames Nation
You can catch the Maple Leafs and Flames tonight in action on TSN4. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
(Stats from StatMuse.com and Hockey-Reference.com)

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