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Woll returns to the crease and looks to bounce back as Maple Leafs visit New Jersey

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
18 days ago
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Joseph Woll since returning from his high-ankle sprain injury in late February. With Ilya Samsonov in the middle of a hot stretch dating back to his return from a brief break from the team, if Woll wants the crease back more often, he’ll have to earn it in the remaining games of the season.
From the off-season until now, there has been a lot going on in the organization, and the subject of goalies has been one of them.
At the start of the season, it felt like Samsonov and Woll would split starts. But with Samsonov’s struggles, Woll took over the starter’s role. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old suffered a lower-body injury, and the team had to look to Martin Jones to stabilize the crease until he returned from injury or Samsonov returned to his old form from a year ago.
Samsonov got starts, but they weren’t pretty. He continued his struggles, and it got to a point where he was unplayable. Jones was the starter until Woll returned, and the veteran netminder went on a mini-hot stretch for Toronto, picking up points. There was a point when Samsonov took a break from the NHL entirely and was away from the rink for roughly two weeks. Upon his return, he has looked like a completely different goalie and has been among the best in the league over the past three months.
With Samsonov looking like his old self again, Woll finally returned from his injury, and Leafs fans were joyful because the Maple Leafs’ tandem had the potential to be very solid. Upon his return, Woll has struggled mightily. Following an 8-5-1 record with a 2.80 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in his first 15 games before injury, Woll has gone 3-5-0 with a 3.16 goals-against average and an .887 save percentage in his last eight games, including giving up the first shot on goal in three of his previous four games.
With Woll likely getting the starting nod tonight against the Devils for the second time in as many weeks, he’ll have another shot to bounce back in the crease with the playoffs right around the corner. The net is likely Samsonov’s come game one, but Woll can make things interesting if he impresses in a couple of the remaining games. It’s a long shot, but it’s not impossible.

Pregame details:

Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Auston Matthews – Max Domi
Bobby McMann – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Matthew Knies – Pontus Holmberg – William Nylander
Connor Dewar – David Kampf – Ryan Reaves
Morgan Rielly – Ilya Lyubushkin
Simon Benoit – Jake McCabe
Mark Giordano – T.J. Brodie
One lineup note: Given it’s a back-to-back with travel, it wouldn’t surprise me if Sheldon Keefe and the coaching staff elected to give a couple of guys a break. Noah Gregor and Conor Timmins are two names that could re-enter the lineup tonight against the New Jersey Devils.
Last night, Auston Matthews continued his march to 70 goals by scoring his 65th goal of the season, tying Alex Ovechkin’s salary cap era record for most goals in a single season. With five games to go in the season, Matthews needs five goals to reach the 70-goal mark, and two of those games are against the Devils, where he has scored 15 goals in 16 career games, including scoring a goal in the first meeting two weeks ago.

New Jersey Devils’ lineup:

Timo Meier – Nico Hischier – Dawson Mercer
Jack Hughes – Erik Huala – Jesper Bratt
Ondrej Palat – Tomas Nosek – Alexander Holtz
Shane Bowers – Chris Tierney – Brian Halonen
Luke Hughes – Nick DeSimone
Kevin Bahl – Brendan Smith
Jonas Siegenthaler – Simon Nemec
(Editor’s note: Jack Hughes will be out of the lineup tonight.)

Projected goalies:

Joseph Woll (TOR) vs Jake Allen (NJ)

Broadcast:

TSN4, 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)
(Projected lineups from dailyfaceoff.com)

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