Puck Drop: 7:30 p.m. EST | Arena: Air Canada Centre | TV: Sportsnet | Radio: TSN 1050
After 104 consecutive regular season and playoff games with Auston Matthews — during which he compiled 54 goals and 93 points — the Maple Leafs will play their first game without their superstar center since drafting him in June of 2016.
While the injury is described as day-to-day, this certainly isn’t the news Leafs fans were expecting or hoping for, especially after Matthews was able to brush off the ailment in the game versus Vegas. In any event, the sports science and medical staffs have made the determination that he’ll need to spend at least a game on the sidelines to recover from an upper-body injury.
It goes without saying that Matthews has been the driving force behind the Leafs‘ most consistently productive line this season. The Zach Hyman – Matthews – William Nylander line’s dominance in goal and chance creation has improved over last season despite more difficult usage. The Leafs‘ scoring depth — which hasn’t been as prominent lately as it was prior to the road trip — will be tested tonight against the Wild, who are off to an uncharacteristic start coming off of their 105-point season and should be a hungry outfit. Currently 5-6-2, Minnesota has lost two in a row, including a recent 5-3 loss in Boston that head coach Bruce Boudreau labelled an “embarrassing” effort.
Babcock has confirmed the Leafs centres tonight will be Kadri – Marleau – Bozak – Moore, but we’ll need to wait until the line rushes in warmups to confirm the specific line combinations.
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on the parity in the NHL and similarity between opponents:
One second, you have breathing room then the next second you don’t have breathing room. But I think that’s how it’s going to be for teams like us right to the end. That’s how the league is set up. It’s exciting for fans, not as exciting for the coach. I’d like to know we’re in the playoffs about game 20, but it’s just not like that.
Babcock on what the Leafs will miss from Matthews defensively:
I don’t think you can race to 10 (goals) without him, so you got to play right without the puck – he’s playing against the best defensemen and the best forwards on the road and the best defensemen and the second best forwards at home. I think that speaks to it right there – when you play well defensively, you have the puck all the time. He’s real good at it and understands it .
Babcock on how Ron Hainsey has helped Morgan Rielly:
Someone tells him what to do every shift, makes it easy for you. Suddenly you look like a much smarter player, a lot better, a more confident player. It isn’t the coach nattering at you, it’s the player.
Bruce Boudreau on the Leafs’ lineup without Matthews:
They’ve got a lot of good players, not just Auston Matthews. If he’s out of the lineup tonight, I guarantee one of the guys who doesn’t get attention because he’s in the lineup will get the attention because he plays that well.
|GF/g||3.75 (2nd)||3.08 (15th)|
|GA/g||3.63 (29th)||3.00 (17th)|
|PP%||24% (6th)||17.1% (20th)|
|PK%||80% (18th)||82% (10th)|
|Shots/g||31.9 (13th)||29.1 (29th)|
|Shots Against/g||32.4 (19th)||32.3 (18th)|
|5v5 CF%||51.57% (9th)||45.44% (30th)|
|5v5 SV%||.894 (30th)||.923 (14th)|
|5v5 SH%||11.1% (1st)||8.7% (13th)|
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lineup
Komarov – Kadri – Nylander
JVR – Bozak – Marner
Hyman – Marleau – Brown
Martin – Moore – Leivo
Rielly – Hainsey
Gardiner – Zaitsev
Borgman – Carrick
Scratched: Polak, Gauthier
Minnesota Wild Projected Lineup
Zucker – Staal– Stewart
Niederreiter – Koivu – Grandlund
Winnik – Eriksson Ek – Ennis
Foligno – Cullen – Kunin
Suter – Spurgeon
Brodin – Dumba
Quincey – Reilly
Injured: Parise, Coyle