The Maple Leafs’ full lineup sans Auston Matthews will take the ice for the final preseason primer tonight at Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet One).
Both Timothy Liljegren and Adam Brooks will sit tonight, and if both are sent down by the time they finalize the opening-night roster, the Leafs will duck under the cap ceiling by $80,000 with 13 forwards, six defensemen, and two goalies on the active roster. Brooks would require waivers, while Liljegren is waiver exempt. Both Alex Biega and Kurtis Gabriel were already placed on waivers on Saturday.
The Leafs would then have a decision to make as to who is the odd man out up front for the first regular-season game, a decision that would seemingly fall between Pierre Engvall and Wayne Simmonds. This assumes no trades occur between now and opening night.
Tonight, with Matthews out (but expected to be ready for Wednesday), David Kampf will fill the void in between Mitch Marner and Nick Ritchie, while Alex Kerfoot moves next to Ondrej Kase, where Kampf had been playing for most of the preseason. If we connect the dots based on everything we have seen so far this preseason, Ritchie – Matthews – Marner / Mikheyev – Tavares – Nylander will be followed by Kampf and Kase on line three, with one of Bunting or Kerfoot on the other wing. One of Engvall or Simmonds will be the odd man out on the fourth line, which will feature Spezza and one of Bunting or Kerfoot.
The defense will look as it does tonight assuming it gets through the game unscathed, while Jack Campbell will start in net. We can safely assume he receives the nod on Wednesday night as well with Petr Mrazek to follow in Ottawa on Thursday.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on Timothy Liljegren’s camp:
I think he has done a nice job. Whether we paired him with Jake Muzzin for a while, I thought he did a good job there. I think he has progressed well. He has done the things we have asked of him
Dean Chynoweth has come in here with a fresh set of eyes on him in terms of preparation going into the season and reviewing him on video. He was excited to work with him. Everything he has seen from him through camp has confirmed that.
That has been nice to see. A guy who has come in and is looking at it fresh believes in him, wants to have him around, and be a part of things. If you are a young player, you are happy to have a coach that believes in you.
Keefe on the need for Travis Dermott to take the next step:
I am still waiting, and I have had this conversation with Travis, for him to take that next step. Right now, he is still in that mix where he is competing with the Sandin and Liljegrens out there. At this stage, he wants to be a guy who is more established and is taking that step.
We are still looking for that, but certainly, he brings value to our group in the 5-6 hole. He has played higher in the lineup when needed, as we all know, and has done a pretty good job of that. He would like to get to the point where that is something that is consistent. I don’t think we have seen that quite yet.
At the same time, with the way the schedule has gone for him in preseason, and the fact that he was going to play both games earlier this week but the injury prevented him from doing so, we haven’t seen him as much. I am interested in seeing him in there tonight.
Morgan Rielly on William Nylander’s camp so far:
He looks great. I think he’s had a great preseason. He works hard. He is always one of those guys who is in shape. His talents and skill speak for themselves. He looks really good.
William Nylander on the prospect of playing more on the penalty kill this season:
I like it. Especially in some games where you get on the PK a bit, you are able to get out there and get moving versus sitting on the bench for an extended period of time. I think it is great. Hopefully, you keep the puck out of the net, too, which is the important thing.
Nylander on the last time he killed penalties:
In a game, dunno… The last time was in Vancouver, the day after I missed that meeting… [laughs].
Nylander on whether a regular power-play guy can anticipate what a PK might do:
As a power play guy, you think a little bit. When you are PKing, you kind of know a little bit what the power-play guys might be thinking, so you might be able to use it in certain situations.
Rielly on the news that the SBA will be full on opening night:
As players, we are extremely happy about that. We are looking forward to having our fans back in the building. We missed them a lot last year. If that goes through, it is extremely exciting. We will look forward to that very much for opening night and onward.
The noise and the feeling in the rink when there are people cheering, the blue jerseys… We just miss that atmosphere. It is hard to put your finger on it. It’s that feeling late in the game when you hear the crowd noise and it really gives the team a boost. We are looking forward to having that back.
Rielly on the late stages of preseason:
Camp is always good for the first couple of days, then it gets more competitive, and then at the end, it feels like it is dragging on a little bit. You just want to get going for real. I think we are at that stage.
But it’s been good. We have had some good exhibition games. There are lots of guys in here who have a lot to be proud about in terms of how they came into camp, how they looked in preseason, and all of that type of stuff. We want to get going and start playing.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#20 Nick Ritchie – #64 David Kampf – #16 Mitch Marner
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#58 Michael Bunting – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #25 Ondrej Kase
#47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #23 Travis Dermott
#36 Jack Campbell
#35 Petr Mrazek
Extras: Timothy Liljegren, Adam Brooks, Alex Biega