The Maple Leafs will look to serve another cold dish of revenge on this California road trip tonight in San Jose (10:30 p.m. EST, Sportsnet Ontario).
Having successfully avenged a 5-1 loss to the Kings in convincing fashion on Wednesday, the Leafs are looking to split the season series against the Sharks after a 5-3 loss in Toronto back in game five of the regular season. Here are your late-night game preview notes:
- Jack Campbell will make way for the third career start for Joe Woll tonight as the Leafs manage Campbell’s workload with his second game off of the year in a non-back-to-back situation (the other was a Petr Mrazek start vs. Detroit on Oct. 30). Starting 16 out of every 21 games, as he did in the first quarter of the season, would put Campbell at the 62-game mark by year’s end (health permitting), which is exactly double his career-high. No doubt, as unflappable as Campbell has looked to date, the Leafs sports science team will want to shave that number down a little.
- There will also be no Ondrej Kase tonight for the Maple Leafs, which will raise alarm bells given his storied injury history, but Kase was training in the gym today, and it sounds more precautionary than anything else. A more cautious approach is the wise approach with Kase in the doldrums of November given the bumps and bruises he’s accumulated already playing the Kase-style of game.
- Coming off of a two-assist performance in LA, Wayne Simmonds will skate next to David Kampf (game-time decision) and Nick Ritchie tonight, while Kirill Semyonov will step in on the fourth line alongside Jason Spezza and Pierre Engvall.
Simmonds is up to six points in 20 games after the two-point night in LA — a point total that includes only one goal, but he’s received little-to-no power-play time early this season (unlike 2020-21), and the underlying 5v5 numbers are very encouraging: he’s at 4.06 individual expected goals at 5v5, which is top five on the team and first on the team as a per-60 rate given his limited ice time. Moving up the lineup, even if it’s not exactly on a more dangerous scoring line, is a well-earned nod to Simmonds’ efforts this season. (Side note: Semyonov — given his responsible checking game — might be an interesting pairing with Kampf at some point).
There were legitimate concerns about Simmonds’ viability as a top-12 regular on this team coming into the season, but he has put them to bed by looking rejuvenated in his skating through the first quarter of the year. He’s flashed the ability to use his puck skills and ranginess to execute skilled plays at pace, showing clear signs of the work he’s put in with the Leafs‘ skills development staff over the past year; his assist off the rush on the Engvall goal vs. LA was a clear example.
- Capable of playing center or either wing, Tomas Hertl is now in the final year of his $5.6 million AAV contract and continues to be a consistent producer for the Sharks. He’s been around a 1.2 goals/60 player at 5v5 for the past four seasons, has 16 goals in his last 29 playoff games, brings size and finishing ability, shoots left, and might be a great fit on the Matthews line. We’ll see where the Sharks (currently 10-8-1, fifth in the Pacific Division) are situated at deadline time, but it’s an intriguing (early, undoubtedly expensive) deadline target idea.
- Coming off of Sean Durzi’s first NHL goal in LA on Wednesday, the Leafs will naturally have to overcome the inevitable Alexander Barabanov goal tonight, but James Reimer has not been the thorn in the Leafs’ side many ex-Leafs have been over the years. The Leafs have put 14 goals past him on 86 shots — a .837 save percentage — since he left Toronto in 2016.
Reimer vs. Woll tonight.
When is the last time we saw a goalie matchup where both players were drafted and developed by the Leafs?
Let's exclude Rask
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) November 26, 2021
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on Kirill Semyonov making his third appearance of the season:
The biggest thing is that he has fit in. That is a big thing for especially a Russian player where there are language issues, style of play differences, and those kinds of things. Right from day one of camp and preseason, he has done a really good job of adapting and fitting in very well.
He is a very smart player defensively. He also makes a lot of very smart plays with the puck. Those are things we really like about his ability. I think he had a really strong first game in Philadelphia, and not as good of a game in Buffalo, but our whole team was not very good that night. As a player adapting to the league still, the team needs to prop him up a bit.
There is enough there that we feel confident putting him in.
Keefe on Wayne Simmonds joining David Kampf’s line in Ondrej Kase’s absence:
I think he will do well with the way he is playing. We are just looking for him to not change, really, from what he has done. He has played a lot in his career and in a lot of different situations with a lot of different linemates. Just stay with it.
He hasn’t spent any time with Kampf. He has spent some time with Ritchie. That line will go to start the night. Wayne has done a really good job. Like a lot of players who have played lower in the lineup, you are looking for a little bit more when it is available. Tonight, it is available.
Keefe on the challenge in the faceoff dot against a Sharks team that is also strong in the circle:
They’ve definitely got some strength down the middle of the ice for sure. We felt that when we played against them before. It is not just on faceoffs. There are a lot of areas where this team presents some problems.
You’ve got to be sharp on special teams. They have strength on defense and up the middle. The goaltending has played very well for them. They get a lot of pucks to the net and block shots. It is hard to get to their net, and they are going to make it hard on our goaltender as well.
We have lots of respect for what they do and who they are. We feel like we are in a good spot here as a team as well. We are looking forward to competing tonight.
Keefe on the challenge presented by the Sharks’ 88.9% (second in the NHL) penalty kill:
If they lose the draw, they are coming. They don’t lay off. It is a great challenge to execute inside of that. Teams that execute inside of that have success, and teams that don’t have real tough nights. We have seen that also. We have a high-pressure PK as well and have made it hard on some teams.
Sharks head coach Bob Boughner on the Leafs:
We know they are a team that starts quickly. We didn’t have the best of starts [in the first game vs. Toronto] and were waiting around a little bit before finding our game. These guys have been hot. Their offense — we saw the game the other night against LA. We can’t get into a back-and-forth, trading-chances game with these guys.
Boughner on whether his team is looking forward to having clarity on the Evander Kane situation:
Part of me says yes, but it really hasn’t fazed our guys. As a team, they are just worried about the guys in the room right now, and they are playing hard for each other. That is the main focus. I don’t think it’s something they sit there and talk about or that you hear whispering about in our room. It is really not an issue.
Boughner on whether it’s easier to handle the Kane situation in the San Jose market vs. Toronto:
I guess I could probably say yes to that [laughs].
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#20 Nick Ritchie – #64 David Kampf* – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Jason Spezza – #94 Kirill Semyonov
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
Starter: #60 Joseph Woll
#36 Jack Campbell
*: game-time decision
Extras: Kyle Clifford, Travis Dermott
Injured: Ondrej Kase, Ilya Mikheyev, Petr Mrazek
San Jose Sharks Projected Lines
#28 Timo Meier – #39 Logan Couture – #92 Rudolfs Balcers
#94 Alexander Barabanov – #48 Tomas Hertl – #73 Noah Gregor
#83 Matthew Nieto – #26 Jasper Weatherby – #62 Kevin Labanc
#11 Andrew Cogliano – #13 Nick Bonino – #42 Jonah Gadjovich
#38 Mario Ferraro – #88 Brent Burns
#67 Jacob Middleton – #65 Erik Karlsson
#44 Marc-Edouard Vlasic – #51 Radim Simek
Starter: #47 James Reimer
#33 Adin Hill
Injured/Out: Jonathan Dahlen, Nikolai Knyzhov