Coming off a sluggish back-to-back from which they only emerged with a single point, the Maple Leafs will be without Auston Matthews tonight against a Winnipeg Jets team that is playing its second game of a back-to-back (7 p.m. EST, TSN 3&4).
Dealing with another injury that, according to Sheldon Keefe, is “similar but not the same” to the wrist ailment that forced him out of two games at the beginning of March, Auston Matthews is considered day-to-day. With Toronto’s next two games scheduled (TBD if they’re actually played) against the Vancouver Canucks — who are just starting to get their players back and are in turmoil with their unfortunate situation — Matthews could end up getting a week off, maybe regardless of whether the games proceed or not.
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Not to beat a dead horse, but what’s happening with the Leafs‘ power play from March-present is staggering. In going 1-for-38 since March 11th, their shot volume hasn’t been atrocious, per se, but it’s a steep drop off from their first few months of the season. During their drought, the Leafs are 21st in Shots/60 and 17th in xGF/60. In that time, they’ve been all over the place with their decision making, unable to create consistent looks from dangerous spots, and are having trouble gaining the zone, especially on the secondary unit while William Nylander is out.
The only positive way to look at it as far as tonight is concerned is to hope that the shakeup required with Matthews out spurs some sort of creativity from their group which, based on the morning skate, will be comprised as follows:
Leafs PP units at morning skate
Galchenyuk – Tavares – Marner
Robertson – Thornton – Spezza
* So, Galchenyuk moves to Matthews spot @TSN_Edge
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 15, 2021
On the Winnipeg side of things, the emergent Andrew Copp, historically a bottom-six defensive forward with average offensive results, has seen both his production and role expand further in the last few weeks. He has two goals and four assists in his five games since last playing Toronto and has been bumped up next to Mark Schiefele and Kyle Connor with Blake Wheeler out. Copp played over 21 minutes in the first of two games against the Leafs a couple of weeks ago, then just over 20 the next in a game that went to a shootout.
Considering he’ll likely get William Nylander back tomorrow, and a flurry of players a week or so after that, Sheldon Keefe will have some tough decisions to make before the playoffs start. As he eludes to in the quotes below, you’d ideally love to get your top players — and aging veterans — some rest and do some experimenting as the regular season winds down, and critically, also get the power play back on track. The bigger priority will be getting Nick Foligno game reps with his new team and begin to find where he’s most effective while sorting out the changes that will result elsewhere in the lineup.
After losing his first game of the season Saturday against Montreal, Jack Campbell will get the start tonight as he looks to get his results right back on track after a blip of eight goals against on his last 56 shots faced.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on William Nylander’s absence:
I’m told his situation is he’s awaiting one more negative test. If he remains negative, then he’ll be able to join our team tomorrow.
Keefe on the situation in Vancouver. who the Leafs are scheduled to play this coming Saturday and Monday:
The easy thing for me to say is that you’re sensitive to what they’re going through. I can’t really speak too much on it because I don’t know for certain what’s going on there. I have confidence that, between the Canucks, the Players Association, and the NHL, they’ll communicate and make the appropriate decisions from there.
[For us], we feel for those guys and what they’re going through here. Obviously, it’s not an easy situation from here. What happens next is very much out of our control.
Keefe on how Jack Campbell has dealt with his first loss of the season:
I think he’s fine — this is all part of it. There’s a reason why he was getting attention with the record he set and the run that he was on — it’s not normal and that’s not how it goes. You’ve got to be able to deal with these situations. That’s all part of the process. I don’t think it’s an issue.
Obviously, we’ve come to know Jack to be one that we know accepts the blame and puts it on himself. Part of him playing more is he’s got to be even keel and brush things off. I certainly believe that he will and that he has.
Keefe on how he plans to manage William Nylander’s return on top of all the deadline acquisitions:
We’re going to take it a day at a time. Obviously, a big part of it here right now is to get all of our guys we acquired at the deadline [arrive in Toronto], get them through their quarantines, and have them around.
Once we do that, we’re going to have more NHL bodies around here — guys who are going to be a big part of our group, so we can look at those things at that time. There’s a number of challenges there — you want to make sure guys get appropriate rest, but you also want to make sure guys are sharp. You want to utilize your depth and get everyone in, but then you [wouldn’t] have a lot of time to play with what you feel your group is going to be when the playoffs begin. Those are all the things that we’re balancing.
First thing is [getting] all our [new players] here and get rolling a little bit, and then we’ll start to make some decisions down the stretch as we get into May, probably. It’s definitely something that’s on our mind. We’ve still got to be rolling as a team.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#12 Alex Galchenyuk – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #11 Zach Hyman
#97 Joe Thornton – #47 Pierre Engvall – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#89 Nick Robertson – #24 Adam Brooks – #19 Jason Spezza
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #22 Zach Bogosian
#36 Jack Campbell (starter)
#33 David Rittich
Covid list (precautionary): William Nylander
Extras: Joey Duszak, Scott Sabourin, Martin Marincin
Injured: Frederik Andersen, Riley Nash
Quarantine: Nick Foligno, Ben Hutton, Riley Nash
Winnipeg Jets Projected Lines
#25 Paul Stastny – #13 Pierre-Luc Dubois – #27 Nikolaj Ehlers
#81 Kyle Connor – #55 Mark Schiefele – #9 Andrew Copp
#85 Mathieu Perreault – #17 Adam Lowry – #82 Mason Appleton
#12 Jansen Harkins – #11 Nate Thompson – #23 Trevor Lewis
#44 Josh Morrisey – #3 Tucker Poolman
#24 Derek Forbort – #4 Neal Pionk
#14 Ville Heinola – #2 Dylan Demelo
#37 Connor Hellebuyck (starter)
#30 Laurent Brossoit
Injured: Blake Wheeler, Nathan Beaulieu, Bryan Little