The Maple Leafs are looking to bounce back from a frustrating loss in Arizona by handing the Blues just their fourth regulation defeat at home this season tonight on HNIC (7 p.m. EST, CBC/Sportsnet).

St. Louis is without $34 million of their player payroll — including two of their top three scorers and their number one defenseman — due to COVID-19 protocol: David Perron, Vladimir Tarasenko, Colton Parayko, Brayden Schenn, and Pavel Buchnevich are all out tonight.

Despite some key absences, they’re winners of three straight and have allowed just three goals in those victories. They’re also riding a 13-game point streak at home, where they’re 15-3-2 this season and have pulled off a number of impressive comeback victories; somehow, they’re 6-2-1 when trailing after the first period, best in the league by a mile. If the Leafs manage to play with the lead tonight, they’re going to need to come up with a better effort to close out the game than we’ve seen to date on this road trip against a resilient Blues team.

These two teams are at the top of the league in combined special teams efficiency, with the Blues sitting inside the top three in both PP and PK percentage, while the Leafs lead the league in power-play efficiency and sit eighth on the PK.

The Maple Leafs have lost Justin Holl, Nick Ritchie, and Ondrej Kase to COVID-19 protocol, but are getting Mitch Marner and Pierre Engvall back from it. Marner rejoins Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting, while Engvall’s return gives Sheldon Keefe a credible checking line next to Ilya Mikheyev and David Kampf.

All-Star goalie Jack Campbell (18-5-3, .935 save percentage) will start in goal for the Leafs, while the Blues may turn to a red-hot rookie in Ville Husso, who has won three straight and is flaunting a .935 save percentage this season through nine starts. Jordan Binnington (11-7-3, .910 save percentage) had the night off on Thursday but is healthy, so he could also receive the nod.

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge against the Blues:

It is another elite team we’re playing — another team with a lot of speed, a lot of skill off the rush. Their young players have really taken hold of the offense and the team. They’re getting a lot from others as a result.

They’re playing a little bit differently than what you have seen from St. Louis teams in recent years, but they’re rolling. They’re very good on special teams with good goaltending. It is a very good, complete team.

They’ve had some Covid stuff happening here as we do and like most teams in the league, but regardless, they’ve been as good as anybody in the league all season and certainly in the last month or so.

Keefe on Mitch Marner’s role as a playmaker versus a goal scorer on the power play:

He is always going to be a guy who facilitates and gets the puck in other players’ hands. It is who he is as a player. A number of players he plays with benefit from that.

At the same time, I think he has been all over the net. He hit a couple of posts in the last game he played for us, both on the power play. It is something where we’d like him to find ways to be a threat and score on the power play, but the reality is our power play was really rolling for a period of time there — as good as anybody in the league — when Mitch was in.

Mitch went out, and the power play continued to roll and build momentum before Christmas. It hasn’t been as good since. Some of that is because we haven’t played a lot of hockey and gotten reps. Part of it is that we’re out of sync a little bit more now with not having Mitch for three of the four games since we’ve come back.

I am not overly concerned with who is scoring the goals and what it looks like on the power play. I am just concerned about whether or not it goes in the net, and it has gone in the net for us quite a bit this season. We look for that to continue.

Keefe on Marner’s 99-game dry spell without a goal on the power play:

I find it odd. We’re aware of it and we’re trying to do different things to help get something to fall for him. Again, it is more of an issue when… last season, our power play was really struggling. Those things are highlighted then. It is not brought up as much this season.

Our power play has been as good as anybody in the league for the most part. I am not too concerned about it, but we are always trying to find ways to get better. We will continue to monitor it and look at it.

Keefe on Pierre Engvall’s improved forechecking presence this season:

I think it comes from his speed, size, and ability to close on people. It has been more of a focus for us as a team this season. I think he has done a good job of that and it is a real strength of his game.

It is not one that necessarily comes to him naturally. I think he is more of a guy who wants the puck, wants to carry it in, and threatens that way. That is really when he is truly at his best: when he is bringing the puck up through the neutral zone and getting you on offense.

The reality of the league is that you have to forecheck the puck back if you want to spend time in the offensive zone and play on offense. I think he is learning that. Our team is learning a lot about that. Our forecheck has been a good asset for us when we have been at our best.

With his size and speed, it is a natural fit for Pierre. When it is time to go retrieve the puck, he should be as good as anybody in the league in terms of getting on it first.

Blues head coach Craig Berube on leading scorer Jordan Kyrou (37 pts in 33 games) making the All-Star Game:

It is well deserved. I think he has been a real good player all year — consistent all year. He is producing at a good level. His all-around game has been good. He is really noticeable out there. He is doing some real good things night in and night out. I am very happy for him, as is the team.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #64 David Kampf –  #47 Pierre Engvall
#43 Kyle Clifford – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Wayne Simmonds

#44 Morgan Rielly –  #78 TJ Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#23 Travis Dermott – #38 Rasmus Sandin

Starter: #36 Jack Campbell
#35 Petr Mrazek

COVID-19 protocol: Nick Ritchie, Justin Holl, Ondrej Kase
Alex Biega, Brett Seney, Michael Hutchinson

St. Louis Blues Projected Lines

#49 Ivan Barbashev – #90 Ryan O’Reilly – #70 Oskar Sundqvist
#20 Brandon Saad – #18 Robert Thomas – #25 Jordan Kyrou
#37 Klim Kostin – #21 Tyler Bozak – #81 James Neal
#22 Logan Brown – #54 Dakota Joshua – #26 Nathan Walker

#47 Torey Krug – #72 Justin Faulk
#77 Niko Mikkola – #6 Marco Scandella
#46 Jake Walman – #41 Robert Bortuzzo

Starter: #50 Jordan Binnington
#35 Ville Husso

Covid-19 protocol: Colton Parayko, David Perron, Vladimir Tarasenko, Scott Perunovich, Brayden Schenn, Pavel Buchnevich