After a couple of days off, the Maple Leafs get set for their second of three matchups this week against the Montreal Canadiens, who are coming off a tough 5-1 loss to the Senators last night (7 p.m. EST, TSN 2/4).

The Maple Leafs will continue experimenting with their forward group as injuries continue to factor into their lineup decisions late in the regular season. Stefan Noesen, acquired from San Jose in the three-way trade that brought Nick Foligno to Toronto, will make his debut tonight, while Pierre Engvall will draw back in. On the backend, Justin Holl will return from a game off due to his facial injury.

Noesen, a 21st overall pick in 2011, has played just over 200 NHL games, spending most of the last four seasons at the highest level. He appeared in 22 games with the Penguins’ AHL affiliate last season, totalling 22 points, but he has spent the rest of his time with the Devils, Penguins, and Sharks.

Noesen has earned a reputation as a defensive depth forward in recent years, playing a low-event game while providing a physical element. He hasn’t played much on the penalty kill in recent seasons at the NHL level, having last played a regular role on a shorthanded unit with the Devils in 2017-18.

Here are Noesen’s weighted charts of his 5v5 impacts over the last three seasons courtesy of hockeyviz.com:

Changes are coming to the bottom six, in part, because the aforementioned Foligno is considered day-to-day and won’t dress tonight. His absence isn’t the only change, however, as Adam Brooks will also sit and will be replaced by Pierre Engvall. Clearly, there is still some deliberation coming regarding the role of players like Brooks, Engvall, and Noesen as to who are the extras and who is in the lineup come game one of the playoffs.

Tonight, the bottom six will look as follows:

  • Noesen joins Alex Kerfoot and Ilya Mikheyev on a shutdown line
  • Engvall joins Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds on the wing

Despite a decent start to the game, the night got away from the Habs in a 5-1 loss in Ottawa last night. After the Sens scored two in the second period to put them 3-1, the Habs predictably owned the puck most of the third period yet failed to generate many dangerous scoring chances, losing the xGoals battle overall despite outshooting Ottawa. That inability to convert possession and shots into enough high-quality scoring chances at 5v5 remains a major downfall for Les Habitants.

One of the storylines to watch tonight will be how Montreal chooses to deploy their forwards. Last night, against a less-talented Sens team in the first half of a back-to-back, the Habs rolled four lines and three pairs as evenly as could be. Artturi Lehkonen played a team-low 10:37 at even-strength, while Anderson was tops among forwards at 15:09.

That is contrasted heavily by Monday’s deployment against the Leafs, where the Habs were much more aggressive with their matchups. Cole Caufield only played 7:37, and four forwards played under 10 minutes. Looking to slow down the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, Dominique Ducharme turned to Phillip Danault and Josh Anderson in that matchup in the last game, a 3-2 overtime win for Montreal — they mostly kept the Matthews line at bay as he and Marner had one of their quieter nights at even-strength of late.

As Frederik Andersen continues to work his way back to 100%, he’ll play half of a game with the Marlies at 3 p.m today. There is no official plan for his return before the playoffs start, but there’s no doubt the team would like to get him in action before the post-season begins in order to assess where his game stands. Whether that’s possible within the machinations of the cap and LTIR is a question for Brandon Pridham.

Jack Campbell will start tonight as he looks to get back on track after his four-game win streak ended on Monday. Considering Jake Allen played last night, it may be 21-year-old Cayden Primeau who receives the start for the Habs for just the fifth time in his NHL career.


Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on Andersen getting some conditioning time with the Marlies:

The [purpose] is really just to get Fred back up and running here one step and a time. The first step in that process is just to increase his workload — he’s feeling good and is taking on a lot in our practices, which has gotten him ready for the next step here.

We do have a little bit of time remaining and we want to make sure we’re smart with it. That’s why he’s going play this half a game here tonight. In his first game in a while coming off of injury, you want to make sure that you give him that progression. He gets a half-game here today, and we’ll reassess it from there.

In terms of the playoffs and stuff like that, I don’t have to make that decision here today. I don’t have all the information, so I’m not going to make it or make any statement on it other than Fred is making his way back and Campbell has been playing extremely well.

[Campbell’s] confidence is growing and our team’s confidence in him is growing. I hope to have to make a difficult decision when the time comes because one thing that’s really clear is the strength of our goaltending has grown significantly over the last number of months. I look forward to making tough decisions.

Keefe on the likelihood of facing Montreal in round one of the playoffs:

It doesn’t change anything for me. If the season ended today, that would be our opponent, but the season isn’t ending today, and it’s tight enough that there’s lots of different ways this can play out here, so..

We’re not looking too far ahead. We’re just focusing on our game. We want to finish the season strong — that’s important for us. We’re coming off of a loss here. We’ve got a three-game set against the same team and we lost game one in overtime, so we want to make sure we respond well here.

That’s really it. We’re not looking too far beyond that.

Keefe on how concerned he is about the power play:

I think it depends which sample we’re looking at here, right? Obviously, for a couple of months, it struggled quite a bit. As I focus on the last [five games], I think we’ve seen a lot of really positive things from our power play.

I didn’t like how much we generated and got to the net last game, but a lot of things in our process [were good]. Our breakouts and entries we’re probably as good as they’ve been all season maybe — just got in clean with really no threat there.

One of our greatest challenges with our power play has been earning power-play opportunities — that I’m a little bit concerned about and want to find ways to generate more. We did that last game pretty much back-to-back, which wasn’t ideal given that we were probably a little bit more tired than we’d like to be for the second one. I considered calling a timeout in that situation. Looking back, I probably should have.

Concern maybe isn’t the right word because I’ve seen positive things progression since we’ve put the one unit together and found ways to score and generate momentum for our team. We need that to continue, obviously, and it needs to be more dangerous and continue to be a threat. Even if [they’re] only going to get one or two chances a game, it needs to build positive momentum for our team.


Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

Forwards
#97 Joe Thornton – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Alex Galchenyuk – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #26 Stefan Noesen
#47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Wayne Simmonds

Defensemen
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #23 Travis Dermott

Goaltenders
#36 Jack Campbell (starter)
#33 David Rittich

Extras/Taxi: Ben Hutton, Adam Brooks, Michael Hutchinson, Teemu Kivihalme, Timothy Liljegren
Injured: Frederik Andersen, Riley Nash, Zach Hyman, Zach Bogosian, Nick Foligno


Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines

Forwards
#90 Tomas Tatar – #24 Philip Danault – #22 Cole Caufield
#73 Tyler Toffoli – #14 Nick Suzuki – #40 Joel Armia
#62 Artturi Lehkonen – #15 Jesperi Kotkaniemi – #17 Josh Anderson
#71 Jake Evans – #21 Eric Staal – #94 Corey Perry

Defensemen
#77 Brett Kulak – #8 Ben Chiarot
#44 Joel Edmundson – #26 Jeff Petry
#27 Alexander Romanov – #28 Jon Merrill

Goaltenders
#34 Jake Allen (starter)
#30 Cayden Primeau

Injured: Brendan Gallagher, Jonathan Drouin, Carey Price, Shea Weber