Following three consecutive off-days for the first time this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be looking for an energetic 60-minute performance tonight against a tired Philadelphia Flyers team coming off of a shootout win over New Jersey last night (7 p.m. ET, CBC).
With Jake Muzzin set to miss a bit of time after suffering an injury in the second period of last game, the Leafs will be without one of their best defensive players for the short term. Muzzin has had quite a hot start offensively as well — three goals, nine points — as he has been one of their consistent pieces overall on the back end this year from game to game. Fortunately, he did skate in practice yesterday but was wearing a non-contact sweater.
In his absence, Martin Marincin will draw right into Muzzin’s usual spot alongside Tyson Barrie, which keeps Travis Dermott on the same pair with Justin Holl in just his second game back. Marincin will help take on a chunk of Muzzin’s PK duties, making the nickname all the more apropos:
Marincin in for Muzzin. Kapanen says Marincin’s nickname in the room is The Specialist for his PK acumen.
— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) November 2, 2019
As Matthews said yesterday, it feels like the “world is crashing down on us” through 14 games and a 6-5-3 record — a tongue-in-cheek comment given the time of season, but the urgency should be kicking up a notch as we leave October. There are certainly some valid excuses on the table — several new faces, Tavares and Hyman (now Muzzin) injuries, schedule, subpar goaltending — but the team has a .500 Philadelphia team in a tired situation tonight and the expectation will be two points, all excuses aside.
The narrative remains much the same on the Flyers side of things in the first month of the Alain Vigneault era compared to recent years — solid offensively (with a better power play so far this season), bad defensive metrics, and inconsistent goaltending. They’re also without Scott Laughton and Nolan Patrick due to injury.
Though it looked like he might be back in tonight based on yesterday’s practice, John Tavares will “play it safe” with his finger injury and sit out tonight’s game. He plans to take advantage of the team’s three-day break upcoming before they play Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Game Day Quotes
Babcock on the challenge in the draw against a strong faceoff team:
Obviously, Giroux and Couturier… Couturier didn’t take faceoffs last night. Konecny took the draws. I don’t know what’s going on and if he hurt his wrist or hand or whatever there. But we go with more guys and they go with the two guys. We’ve got to be ready to jump and we’ve got to be dialed in on the technique. Farly and Brew will get that looked after. It’s important for us to have the puck.
Alain Vigneault on managing the Couturier line without Couturier being able to take faceoffs as well as the injuries down the middle:
It’s a challenging test for us at this time with him not being able to take faceoffs, with Scotty [Laughton] being out, with Nolan Patrick not being here. Our middle situation right now is a little bit more challenging. Travis Konecny took some big faceoffs and I thought he did a fairly good job. We’ve just got to find a way and that is what we are trying to do as a team.
Babcock on what he has learned about the team without Tavares for the past six games:
There are different matchups. What I mean by that is that he plays against certain people when he’s in and draws certain matchups. I think it is just about opportunity and finding out who is capable of stepping up and who can maybe slot themselves up on the lines. In saying that, you’re a better team when you have everybody on deck and everybody slotted in the right spots.
Babcock on the challenge with Jake Muzzin out of the lineup:
I don’t look at it like that. Marty is in. We’ve got six D. Let’s go. To me, we are set up great. We’ve had rest. We should be set up as good as we have been at any time this year. We’ve got a new group. We’ve spent a lot of time working together trying to get ourselves on the same page. Let’s play. Let’s not talk about the guys who aren’t here. Let’s talk about the guys who are here.
Babcock on what Dave Hakstol — who returns to Philly tonight — has brought to the table so far:
He’s just been a coach for a long, long time. He understands what it takes. He understands how to talk to players. He understands the defensive side of the game and working with our D. If you look at our D, besides Morgan Rielly, the opening day lineup last year is all different. There are lots of changes there, and then the injuries.
I think he has done a real good job. I believe our penalty kill is better than the numbers show. He’s done a real good job there moving it along. He’s a real good coach and a real good person. I think it has been real helpful. The real measure for everybody, though, is the test of time here.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #16 Mitch Marner
#42 Trevor Moore – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#41 Dmytro Timashov – #33 Frederik Gauthier – #26 Nick Shore
#44 Morgan Rielly – #83 Cody Ceci
#52 Martin Marincin – #94 Tyson Barrie
#23 Travis Dermott – #3 Justin Holl
#31 Frederik Andersen (starter)
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Scratched: Kevin Gravel
Injured: Zach Hyman, Jake Muzzin, John Tavares
Marner – Nylander – Matthews
Kerfoot – Moore – Spezza
Philadelphia Flyers Projected Lines
#25 James van Riemsdyk – #28 Claude Giroux – #93 Jakub Voracek
#23 Oskar Lindblom – #14 Sean Couturier – #11 Travis Konecny
#12 Micheal Raffle – #13 Kevin Hayes – #49 Joel Farabee
#81 Carsen Twarnyski – #50 German Rubtsov – #44 Chris Stewart
#9 Ivan Provorov – #15 Matt Niskanen
#53 Shane Gostisbehere – #61 Justin Braun
#6 Travis Sanheim – #61 Philippe Myers
#37 Brian Elliot (unconfirmed starter)
#79 Carter Hart
Injured: Nolan Patrick, Scott Laughton