One Battle of Ontario matchup remains as the Toronto Maple Leafs look to redeem themselves after a dismal 6-2 loss to the Sens just two weeks ago (7 p.m, CBC).
The many Leafs fans in attendance in Kanata tonight will be disappointed, but those in favour of more rest for Frederik Andersen will get what they wanted tonight as Andersen will sit and Garret Sparks will start. The timing here makes a lot of sense — it’s against a weak Senators team, for one, and Andersen’s last start was on Wednesday, giving him a solid five days off. From what the media has been told, the Leafs are planning to split Sparks and Andersen for the Monday-Tuesday back-to-back and let Andersen start the last two games against Tampa Bay and Montreal before the playoffs start April 10th. That seems like a reasonable balance of giving Andersen rest and also making sure he gets enough work to dial in for the playoffs.
At the other end of the ice, the Sens goaltending situation will likely be much different once (if) they find themselves in contention again but, for now, Craig Anderson is signed through next season and will remain the starter for the immediate future. Playing behind one of the NHL’s worst defensive teams for the second straight year, it’s been a second straight down year results-wise for Anderson. His numbers are a little better than they were last year, however, especially considering the team has taken even more of a hit in the standings and overall performance this year. In his last five starts, Anderson is 2-3-0 with a .916 save percentage.
Travis Dermott will make a welcome return from injury tonight, giving the Leafs back one of the two formidable puck movers they’ve been missing for some time now on the blue line. At practice, Dermott was paired with Martin Marincin, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see that change in warmup tonight. Dermott has played quite a few minutes with both Igor Ozhiganov and Justin Holl between the NHL and AHL. There’s also a chance that Dermott will remain on the right side in preparation for Calle Rosen’s call up; Rosen will join the team on Monday for their game against the Islanders.
A few names to look out for on the Senators side of things: Brady Tkachuk, the still 19-year-old 2018 fourth overall pick, leads the Sens with six goals in the team’s last ten games. Tkachuk’s rookie season has been extremely impressive given the state of the organization and the number of personnel changes that have occurred this year in Ottawa, both on and off the ice. His 49.8 CF% and 51.7% SCF% both rank 2nd among Sens players with more than 200 minutes played this year and first among current players (Mark Stone is first in both). Brian Gibbons, who was involved in a relatively minor trade at the deadline for minor leaguer Patrick Sieloff, is Ottawa’s points leader with eight points (three goals, five assists) in ten games. A pending UFA, he has 12 points in 15 games with the Sens since the trade.
Game Day Quotes
Mike Babcock on the team’s last five games:
We have an opportunity to clinch and we also have an opportunity I think to tie the Leaf road record for wins, so there are lots of things. The other thing about it is, we have five opportunities to get better, and I think that’s maybe the most important thing for our group.
We’ve got a theme of the day, whether that be the offensive part we’re working on or identifying some players that we can work on who will be in our first round matchup. There’s a number of things you can do that way, but obviously just growing your game and getting your specialty teams ready.
Babcock on Rosen’s eventual callup:
We’ve had a lot of players on our team come through the AHL, and yet the AHL — as you can see — is a [lot] different than the NHL. Some players can really stand up and get going at the next level and other players it’s harder for. We’re hopeful because of his hockey sense, because of his skating, that he can be an important player in years to come.
Babcock on Dermott:
Dermy’s a guy who’s real good with the puck. He’s got fast twitch. He’s thinks it. He moves it. So he’s got on the offensive blueline and he’s getting better on his own blueline and in his own zone. He’s an important player for us. When you take Gards and him out of our lineup, our ability to generate offence from the back and get our forwards the puck, both on the Ozone blueline and just our of [our] own zone, wasn’t the same at all.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #29 William Nylander
#11 Zach Hyman – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Patrick Marleau – #43 Nazem Kadri – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#63 Tyler Ennis – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #28 Connor Brown
#44 Morgan Rielly – #2 Ron Hainsey
#8 Jake Muzzin – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#23 Travis Dermott – #3 Justin Holl
#40 Garret Sparks
#31 Frederik Andersen
Injured: Jake Gardiner (back)
Scratched: Trevor Moore, Nic Petan
Ottawa Senators Projected Lines
#7 Brady Tkachuk – #44 Jean-Gabriel Pageau – #14 Max Veronneau
#10 Anthony Duclair – #71 Chris Tierney – #89 Mikkel Boedker
#38 Rudolfs Balcers – #21 Colin White – #9 Bobby Ryan
#10 Anthony Duclair – #24 Oscar Lindberg – #56 Magnus Paajarvi
#72 Thomas Chabot – #2 Dylan Demelo
#86 Christian Wolanin – #5 Cody Ceci
#74 Mark Borowiecki – #83 Christian Jaros
#41 Craig Anderson
#31 Anders Nilsson
Injured: Zach Smith