The Toronto Maple Leafs will look to make it five points out of a possible six in their third-straight matchup against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet Ontario & TSN5).
After dominating the opening 40 minutes and giving the game away in the late second and third periods of the first game in this three-game series, Toronto started out slowly last night — the Senators could/should have led through 20 minutes — and came on stronger with more sustained offensive pushes in the second and third periods. They found a way to edge out a 2-1 win despite losing the shot attempts battle handily and splitting the expected goals share 50-50.
What the Leafs haven’t accomplished yet in this series is anything approaching the always-elusive 60-minute effort, and they may need to save their best for last in that respect as Michael Hutchinson makes his season debut in the Leafs‘ crease.
Going with Hutchinson tonight makes sense on a number of fronts: Frederik Andersen has started 10 games in a row with Jack Campbell unavailable, they’re up against an opponent who is already not relevant to them in the playoff race (a rarity with this divisional schedule), and it never hurts — in a tired situation against a bottom-feeding opponent — to have a goalie in the net that might help focus the team’s attention on making sure they play the right way. Popular in the room (part of the reason for Kyle Dubas bringing him back), Hutchinson will want to prove himself after the way it ended in Toronto last season (4-9-1, .886 save percentage), and the Leafs should be motivated to put in a solid effort in front of him.
Justin Holl: "Regardless of who is in goal, we have to play better defensively."
— Lance Hornby (@sunhornby) February 18, 2021
Waiting for another week-plus for Jack Campbell to return before getting Andersen some rest and having him play through back-to-backs would have been a pretty irresponsible move at this juncture in the season. It’s a short sprint of a season, but the bigger picture isn’t lost on the Leafs here.
In other lineup changes, Mikko Lehtonen returns to the fold in the place of Zach Bogosian (his first night off this season) for Lehtonen’s first appearance since the second game of the Vancouver series. That likely means Dermott will shift over to the right side of the ice on the bottom pairing — a few reps on that side of the ice won’t hurt, as the Leafs are flush with left-handed depth options and not so much on the right in the event of injuries. As a group of six, it’s certainly the best group of puck-moving blue liners the team has iced this season, but one imagines Sheldon Keefe will have an especially tight leash on the Lehtonen-Dermott bottom pairing.
Up front, with Zach Hyman dealing with a day-to-day injury issue after taking a shot to the foot in last night’s game, Nic Petan will draw back in. Ilya Mikheyev could move back up to join John Tavares and William Nylander while Jimmy Vesey returns to the Alex Kerfoot line, but it’s also possible the Leafs give Nic Petan a look higher up the lineup next to Tavares and Nylander while leaving Mikheyev with Kerfoot-Engvall and Vesey with Boyd-Spezza.
Game Day Media Availability
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines*
#97 Joe Thornton – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#26 Jimmy Vesey – #47 Pierre Engvall – #65 Ilya Mikheyev
#61 Nic Petan – #72 Travis Boyd – #19 Jason Spezza
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#46 Mikko Lehtonen – #23 Travis Dermott
#30 Michael Hutchinson (starter, confirmed)
#60 Joseph Woll
Injured: Wayne Simmonds, Jack Campbell, Zach Hyman
Extras: Zach Bogosian, Alex Galchenyuk, Alex Barabanov, Scott Sabourin, Martin Marincin
Ottawa Senators Projected Lines
#7 Brady Tkachuk – #71 Chris Tierney – #28 Connor Brown
#13 Nick Paul – #36 Colin White – #63 Evgenii Dadonov
#18 Tim Stutzle – #15 Derek Stepan – #19 Drake Batherson
#51 Artem Anisimov – #9 Josh Norris – #16 Austin Watson
#24 Christian Wolanin – #22 Nikita Zaitsev
#38 Mike Reilly – #2 Artem Zub
#26 Erik Brannstrom – #44 Erik Gudbranson
#1 Marcus Hogberg (starter, unconfirmed)
#30 Matt Murray
Injured: Thomas Chabot