Heading into the thick of their road trip, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in Colorado to square off against a desperate Avalanche team that has lost seven in a row, including their last three in overtime (9 p.m, TSN4).
Playing their third game in four nights with a late start at high altitude, keeping it simple with short shifts and four lines rolling is going to be the order of the day for the Leafs tonight. As will be a big effort from the John Tavares line and the Morgan Rielly – Jake Muzzin pairing up against the formidable Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Rantanen trio, although it’ll have to be somewhat ‘by-committee’ without last change on the road.
In the first meeting between these two teams, the Leafs lacked urgency and detail to their game after going up 2-0 early and were outworked at key moments of the contest, leading to a 6-3 defeat on a night that will be remembered more for the booing of Jake Gardiner from a smattering of Leafs fans. This is a Colorado team that is vulnerable defensively and lacking for consistent goaltending at the moment; a patient, hard-working, detailed, and disciplined (the Avalanche own the sixth-best PP thanks to the above-mentioned top line) road effort against a fragile Colorado team is what the Leafs are looking for tonight.
After finishing the last two games up on Nazem Kadri’s line, Andreas Johnsson will start on that line this time around, with Connor Brown bumped down to the fourth (both now on their proper wings). It’s an overdue move and due reward for Johnsson, who has nine points in 10 games and will more opportunity tonight after averaging under 11 minutes over those games.
In other roster news, Tyler Ennis has been activated off of IR but will not feature tonight.
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on the Avalanche:
Well, I just think they’ve got good players. They’ve got good D. Last time we played them, they were a little opportunistic, but they did a real nice job against us. They were above the puck, they made it hard for you to get through the neutral zone. If you don’t take care of the puck, you end up turning it over and coming back your way. So we’re going to have to do a good job with the puck here tonight.
Babcock on dealing with the 3-in-4:
I didn’t know it was [three games in four days]. We had a day off yesterday and we’re ready to go. We skated here and you saw it wasn’t that pretty. Never usually is. You’d like to get in the day before and skate, but it’s good for the guys to get out there and realize how short the shifts are going to have to be, especially in that first ten minutes. Now, they just travelled back as well, so we’re in the same boat as them. It’s just hockey.
Babcock on Andreas Johnsson:
He’s done a good job. You know, with our lines every single night, you’re just trying to find the guys that are going and will give you the best opportunity. I think Johnny’s really tenacious, I think he’s on the puck a lot. I thought he was really good in Montreal and I didn’t think [his line] was as good last game, but I thought really good in Montreal.
Babcock on when Tyler Ennis will return:
The biggest thing with Tyler is Goat’s line has been playing good, and [Lindholm] takes those faceoffs on the penalty kill for us, so you’ve got to decide. They’re, I don’t know, third or fourth on the powerplay? That just cleans it up.
Babcock on Kapanen:
To me, Kappy hasn’t missed a beat. You guys would see it more than me as far as the scoring part. To me, Kappy’s been good night in and night out.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#12 Patrick Marleau – #34 Auston Matthews – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #43 Nazem Kadri – #29 William Nylander
#26 Par Lindholm – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #28 Connor Brown
#8 Jake Muzzin – #44 Morgan Rielly
#51 Jake Gardiner – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#23 Travis Dermott – #2 Ron Hainsey
#31 Frederik Andersen
#40 Garret Sparks
Scratched: Justin Holl, Igor Ozhiganov, Tyler Ennis
Colorado Avalanche Projected Lines
#92 Gabriel Landeskog – #29 Nathan MacKinnon – #96 Mikko Rantanen
#13 Alexander Kerfoot – #37 J.T Compher – #22 Colin Wilson
#83 Matthew Nieto – #34 Carl Soderberg – #11 Matt Calvert
#24 A.J Greer – #15 Sheldon Dries – #10 Sven Andrighetto
#28 Ian Cole – #6 Erik Johnson
#16 Nikita Zadorov – #4 Tyson Barrie
#12 Patrik Nemeth – #49 Samuel Girard
#1 Semyon Varlamov
#31 Phillipp Grubauer
Injured: Mark Barberio, Vladislav Kamenev