With an exhibition schedule that consists of back-to-back games tonight and tomorrow followed by the preseason finale on Saturday, for a number of players on the bubble, tonight’s game in Ottawa will be the last opportunity to make their case for an opening-night roster spot or leave a lasting impression with the coaching staff on their way down to the Marlies (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).
In Ho-Sang’s case, it could be his last opportunity to secure himself a contract, as we can safely assume Sheldon Keefe will want one preseason game with his full lineup together on Saturday. Ho-Sang’s last appearance in Ottawa included three assists, two on the power play and all on goals scored by Michael Bunting, who will skate on his line again tonight with Kirill Semyonov in the middle.
The Leafs will be saving their cuts for Wednesday after this back-to-back concludes, while the Senators trimmed their roster down to 25 players over the weekend. That means this will be a solid test for the Leafs group that made the trip as it will be an Ottawa lineup heavy on NHL regulars.
Up front, Pierre Engvall will make his preseason debut for the Leafs after nursing a minor injury through the early stages of camp. With Nick Ritchie assured a wing spot in the top six to start, Bunting turning heads, Ilya Mikheyev ahead of Engvall on the left, and Adam Brooks, Nick Robertson, Kirill Semyonov, and Michael Amadio (all playing tonight) still in the mix for the final spots up front, Engvall needs to make up for lost time if he wants to ensure a spot in the opening-night top 12. For players jostling for spots, injury setbacks in camp can be tough to overcome once the internal competition is already up to game speed.
On defense, Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl will be back in their usual stations alongside one another, while Rasmus Sandin and Travis Dermott will pair off. The Senators are trotting out two legitimate scoring lines tonight in Formenton – Norris – Batherson and Stützle – Pinto – Brown, which should give the likely opening-night bottom pairing of Sandin-Dermott a good test.
Game Day Quotes
Nick Robertson on his special teams contributions:
I love the PK. I think it is one of my greatest assets. It is the way to show my tenacity. Everything is kind of set there for the opposing team, so it is easy for me to get going and get my feet moving to interrupt their play.
We want to have an aggressive PK this year, and for me, that is what I am. I am aggressive. I love playing the PK, and I think it is a great way to showcase myself… I have to be versatile, whether it is playing the power play or PK.
Rasmus Sandin on his relationship with Timothy Liljegren:
We always talk to each other. We spend a lot of time together. I love Timothy a lot. He is the best kid out there, too. For me, he is a great guy to be around all the time.
When we are at the rink, it is always hockey we are talking about. We always talk about what we can do better. You always see stuff from the other guy when you are not playing — you see what you could’ve done with the puck better or without the puck better.
On the rink, we are trying to talk as much as we can and trying to learn from it. Outside of the rink, we try to have fun, take our minds off of hockey a little bit, and just have fun with each other.
Sandin on Liljegren’s play in camp:
He is very sure of what he is doing. During practices and during games, he has been looking very comfortable out there. He is making really good plays with the puck, and without the puck, he is playing hard. I think he has been looking really good out there.
Sandin on where he wants to improve his game:
Just move the puck a little bit quicker and do everything a little bit quicker. You are still a little bit used to the practice you are doing in the summer, and it is obviously not the same pace during the game. It’s just about moving everything a little bit quicker, getting the timing back, and how I gap up. I need to play hard without the puck and keep moving the puck the way I have been, just a little bit quicker. Everything can always be better.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #64 David Kampf – #25 Ondrej Kase
#58 Michael Bunting – #94 Kirill Semyonov – #52 Josh Ho-Sang
#89 Nick Robertson – #18 Michael Amadio – #19 Jason Spezza
#47 Pierre Engvall – #77 Adam Brooks – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #23 Travis Dermott
#48 Carl Dalhstrom – #33 Alex Biega
#36 Jack Campbell
Ottawa Senators Projected Lines
Formenton – Norris – Batherson
Stützle – Pinto – C. Brown
Sanford – White – Ennis
Paul – Agozzino – Watson
Chabot – Zub
Del Zotto – Holden
Mete – J. Brown