The Maple Leafs, now 7-1-2 in their last ten games with a six-point cushion between themselves and the second-place Oilers, are looking to make it 3-0-0 against the Calgary Flames this season, but their depth will be tested tonight due to another bout with the injury bug (7 p.m., TSN4 / Sportsnet West).
It appears Saturday’s win didn’t come without a price, as both Joe Thornton and Zach Hyman will sit tonight and are considered day-to-day. More significantly, it was revealed today that Jake Muzzin suffered a broken bone in his face, keeping him out for tonight and, presumably, for a bit longer than either Thornton or Hyman, although there is some chance he could return soon with the aid of face-shield protection.
Thornton did skate this morning, but he was told he couldn’t play tonight after the fact, so his replacement will be another game-time decision. Ilya Mikheyev is a candidate to move up the lineup, as is Pierre Engvall, who spent some time on Tavares’ wing last season.
At the bottom of the lineup, Nic Petan and Alexander Barabanov will enter the fray. Petan has been given a more significant role recently than Barabanov, who hasn’t played since February 8th and has averaged only 6:20 of ice time this season. Petan has appeared in three of Toronto’s last six games, averaging 10:41 on the season and bringing some pace and play-making ability to the bottom line. Petan’s work without the puck is inconsistent, but most of the better offensive games from the Travis Boyd and Jason Spezza line have come with Petan on the left side.
If there is a silver lining to the Jake Muzzin injury, it’s that the team has experience with rotating in other options next to Justin Holl with some success, specifically Travis Dermott, who played a stint late last season next to Holl in top-matchup situations with positive results (granted, it’s a small sample). It’s also a good opportunity for Mikko Lehtonen to put his last appearance against the Senators behind him while returning to a more familiar pairing alongside Zach Bogosian as opposed to Dermott on his off-side. The depth situation on the blue line doesn’t feel quite so discomforting this time around.
The other good news is that the Leafs are catching the Flames at the low point of their young season. This is technically the second time Calgary has lost three straight in 2021, but this time the signs are more worrisome than the first. In their last three games, the Flames haven’t done a horrible job of controlling the flow of the game — ranking 17th in xG% at just over 50% — but they’ve given up 14 goals in those three games on the back of a league-worst five-on-five save percentage of .849.
Surprisingly, the brunt of their poor goaltending falls on the shoulders of starter Jakob Markstrom, who has been pulled in two straight starts, including in Saturday’s game against Edmonton, after giving up five goals in the first 40 minutes both times. Given his last week of play, going up against a Leafs team that is in the midst of an offensive hot-streak — including a 3-for-4 night on Saturday for the best power play in the NHL — will be quite the test for Markstrom as he looks to rediscover his form and confidence.
Sheldon Keefe noted that, while they haven’t determined a timeline as of yet, Jack Campbell is progressing in his recovery and he guesses that he’ll be close to returning within a week.
Both number one goalies, Frederik Andersen and Jakob Markstrom, will be out tonight. Michael Hutchinson, who earned a win in his first start of the season against Ottawa on Thursday, will start with Joseph Woll backing up, while David Rittich starts for the Flames. Rittich saved 23 of 25 shots in a 2-1 loss to Edmonton on Friday and came in to relieve Jakob Markstrom in both of his last two games.
Meanwhile, the Leafs will massively shake up the lines for the first time this season, with Tavares moving up with the red-hot Matthews-Marner combo:
#Leafs lines in warmup (vs. CGY):
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) February 22, 2021
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on Zach Bogosian:
I think he’s just continued to be himself and the player he’s proven he can be in this league and the player we thought we were getting when we signed him. He’s just continued that and he’s been very consistent for us, [particularly] with his approach to the game and his mindset. He doesn’t get bothered or rattled about anything; he just goes out and plays.
Keefe on the Flames mindset going into the game:
They’re a team that’s going to come in here and give us their absolute best. We got good results when we were down in Calgary there. Going through those games, [I] felt that for good stretches they gave it to us pretty good. They have that ability to do so if you put them on offense and let them get feeling good in the offensive zone.
Keefe on his own team’s mindset going the game:
We’ve got our own adversity, just with the guys coming out of the lineup and opportunities for others to step up in their place. I’m anxious for the game today to see how our group responds. We have full expectations that Calgary is going to respond to their challenges. We’ve got to do the same, and make sure that we push and grow as a team regardless of who is in or out.
Keefe on the loss of Jake Muzzin:
It’s a big loss, of course. He does a lot of important things for us. Fiv-on-five and on the penalty kill, he takes on a lot of difficult matchups. He a big, physical presence for us on the back-end and, of course, [the] chemistry he has with Justin [Holl] has been very good as well.
Keefe on Dermott’s increased opportunity with Muzzin out:
I talked to Travis Dermott today. It’s a great opportunity for him — it’s something I know he’s been waiting for and something we’ve been wanting to prepare him for in the event that there’s an injury and he has to elevate and be prepared for it.
When I look back on the Columbus series, when we lost Muzzin in that series, we weren’t happy as an orginization with how that went and we dealt with [it]. That’s, in a lot of ways, why we’ve taken the approach we have with Dermott here to try and get him to prepare and reset for a greater role and opportunity. That’s a great thing for us to watch here today — he’s excited for the opportunity and he’s been very patient and has really worked hard from day one of camp. He’s got a chance here tonight to make a big step.
I just want him to go about the same way as when he’s gotten other opportunties here, which is to go in with the mindest that he’s going to continue to do little things very well and not try to do too much — not feel like he’s got to take on too much. He’s just got to continue to be himself and do what he does well. When he does that, we really like a lot of the things he brings to the game.
Keefe on Nylander’s effort and why he was benched in the latter half of the third period on Saturday:
The effort I expect is his best effort. I’m not necessarily questioning his effort the other night. That wasn’t it for me. It’s more just adapting to the game. I thought our team really adjusted well after the second period coming into the third. I thought we managed the puck well and managed the game extremely well.
We expect that from everybody, and I think Willy is no different. Ww expect a lot from him and that’s a big part of [the benching]. As for our conversations, we’ve talked a lot throughout the season and last, and he knows exactly what my expectations are of him.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#91 John Tavares – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#94 Alexander Barabanov – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #88 William Nylander
#65 Ilya Mikheyev– #47 Pierre Engvall – #26 Jimmy Vesey
#61 Nic Petan – #72 Travis Boyd – #19 Jason Spezza
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#23 Travis Dermott – #3 Justin Holl
#46 Mikko Lehtonen – #22 Zach Bogosian
#30 Michael Hutchinson (starter)
#60 Joseph Woll
Injured: Wayne Simmonds, Jack Campbell, Jake Muzzin, Zach Hyman (day-to-day), Joe Thornton (day-to-day), Frederik Andersen (day-to-day)
Extras: Alex Galchenyuk, Scott Sabourin, Martin Marincin
Calgary Flames Projected Lines
#88 Andrew Mangiapane – #28 Elias Lindholm – #19 Matthew Tkachuk
#13 Johnny Gaudreau– #23 Sean Monahan– #93 Sam Bennett
#17 Milan Lucic – #11 Mikael Backlund – #29 Dillon Dube
#20 Joakim Nordstrom – #10 Derek Ryan – #27 Josh Leivo
#5 Mark Giordano – #4 Rasmus Andersson
#55 Noah Hanifin – #8 Chris Tanev
#6 Jusso Valimaki – #58 Oliver Kylington
#33 David Rittich (starter)