As the injury and illness bug continues to ravage their lineup, the Toronto Maple Leafs welcome a tired Arizona Coyotes team to the Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. ET, TSN4).
In their first proper practice after a stretch of five games in eight days, quite a few Leafs were missing with lingering injuries and illnesses. Both John Tavares and Justin Holl were among those at home sick, although there is hope they will both suit up tonight:
Keefe said Tavares and Holl are both game-time decisions, but feeling much better than yesterday
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) February 11, 2020
There was also some indication, based on him practicing in the starter’s net at the morning skate today, that Frederik Andersen would return to the net tonight, but that won’t be the case after all:
Sheldon Keefe said that Jack Campbell will start vs. Coyotes. Andersen not quite there yet.
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) February 11, 2020
Therefore, this will be the third straight start for newcomer Jack Campbell, who has impressed in his first two games with his poise and confidence in the crease, stopping 54-of-60 shots on net as the Leafs collected three our of four points despite uneven 60-minute performances in both games.
Despite pulling off the blockbuster move in December to acquire Taylor Hall from New Jersey, Arizona has experienced a downturn in offensive production as the season has progressed. Taking a look at the graph below from chartinghockey.com comparing a team’s offensive production over the entire season with that of their most recent 25 games, the Coyotes are near zero in both xGF production and actual production over the season. However, they’ve been significantly worse by xGF in their last 25:
It was always an unorthodox approach to roster construction for the Coyotes to be built so much down the wings without the high-end centers to really drive the bus for them; they’ve now fallen to 23rd in goals per game. Perhaps without a long-term injury to starter Darcy Kuemper, who hasn’t featured since December 19th, the Coyotes would have been able to better withstand their dip in production and remain in the mix at the top of the Pacific Division. Kuemper, who started 55 games for Arizona last season with a lot of success, got off to a start that rivaled even last season’s career year — Kuemper is third in the league in overall goals saved above expected (GSAx) behind only James Reimer and possible Vezina winner Connor Hellebucyk.
After a strong start to 2019-20, Antti Raanta has also slipped of late, stopping just 90% of shots faced and winning just two of his last seven. As Raanta picked up the win in Montreal last night, rookie backup Adin Hill will start for the Coyotes tonight. The 6’6, 202-pound BC native has been the superior of the two statistically since the Kuemper injury, posting a 2-3-2 record with a .918 save percentage in his first 11 NHL starts.
Game Day Quotes
Auston Matthews on the team finding its scoring touch again tonight after the one goal in Montreal:
I think it is just challenging the inside a little bit more. Like you said, I think the focus a lot lately has been our defensive play and making sure that kind of structure is there. At the same time, when we get the puck, we’ve got to get going and play on offense and utilize our talent and abilities. That has been something that has been lacking just a bit lately, but in the end, playing well defensively is going to lead to offense and we’ve just got to make sure we capitalize on that.
Sheldon Keefe on Frederik Andersen not yet returning:
Just part of the process. He was wanting to get another skate in today to see how he felt. He has been progressing very well and working towards a return, but he’s not quite there yet.
Keefe on Jack Campbell giving the team confidence with Frederik Andersen out:
I just like the confidence he has in himself and the confidence he has in our team. He is excited about every opportunity that comes about. No matter how it comes about, he is ready for it, whether it is coming in and playing right away or playing on the back-to-back nights, or playing today, when he was coming in and wasn’t necessarily thinking he would be starting. He is prepared and ready for everything that comes.
Sheldon Keefe on the team’s third-period woes last week:
We think that we had a bad week in that regard. Sometimes, when it happens like that, it can be something big that maybe snowballs. You want to control it and be aware of it. Sometimes, it is just happenstance, whether it is the first game against Florida and it seemed like just everything went in the net. The Anaheim game was special teams issues. In Montreal, we thought we defended quite well and didn’t give up much, but we never had the puck and didn’t put any pressure on them. Each game was unique in its own sense.
We are not overthinking that. We believe in the group and in the larger sample of what we’ve done. We want to make sure we just focus on starting fresh and putting ourselves in that position again so we can get it right.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#88 William Nylander – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #11 Zach Hyman
#18 Andreas Johnsson – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Kasperi Kapanen
#73 Kyle Clifford – #47 Pierre Engvall – #46 Pontus Aberg
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #94 Tyson Barrie
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#36 Jack Campbell (starter)
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Scratched: Martin Marincin, Dmytro Timashov
Injured: Ilya Mikheyev, Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci, Frederik Andersen
Arizona Coyotes Projected Lines
#91 Taylor Hall – #18 Nick Cousins – #83 Conor Garland
#67 Lawson Crouse – #21 Derek Stepan – #81 Phil Kessel
#9 Clayton Keller – #8 Nick Schmaltz – #13 Vinnie Hinostroza
#34 Carl Soderberg – #15 Brad Richardson – #36 Christian Fischer
#23 Oliver Ekman-Larsson – #4 Niklas Hjalmarsson
#7 Jakob Chychrun – #33 Alex Goligoski
#82 Jordan Oesterle – #46 Ilya Lyubushkin
#32 Antti Raanta (starter)
#31 Adin Hill
Injured: Darcy Kuemper, Jason Demers