The Maple Leafs will welcome the St. Louis Blues to the Scotiabank Arena for the first time since October 2019 tonight on Hockey Night in Canada (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

The Blues are without Vladimir Tarasenko tonight, but they are still a much healthier team than the team the Leafs beat in St. Louis that was banged up and ravaged by COVID-19 in mid-January.

Toronto put six past Jordan Binnington in that game, but it looks like 27-year-old Finnish goaltender Ville Husso will receive the nod tonight from head coach Craig Berube. Husso is leading the league in goals against average (1.91) and is second in the NHL in save percentage (.937).

Husso’s story isn’t totally dissimilar to Jack Campbell’s as a late-blooming netminder who burst onto the scene in his late 20s, except he’s remained in the Blues system the entire time (a former 2014 fourth-round pick) and didn’t start a single NHL game until a few weeks before his 26th birthday in early 2021. It’s also worth noting that he was a .893 in his NHL 17 starts in 2020-21 after two seasons of mediocre numbers in the AHL. He’s certainly caught lightning in a bottle so far this season, though, rattling off an 11-3-2 stretch with a .937 save percentage.

Similar to Thursday’s challenge against Pittsburgh, the Blues’ combined special teams are right near the top of the league just below the Maple Leafs‘ — they’ve got a top-five power play (27.1%, second in the NHL) and penalty kill (84.5%, fifth in the NHL). They are also top 10 in both goals for and against.

However, the Blues are bottom 10 in both shot attempt share and expected goal share, so the Leafs‘ control over the 5v5 run of play should give them an edge in that phase of the game. Toronto controlled over 58% of the shot attempts and nearly 60% of the expected goals in their 6-5 win over St. Louis in mid-January.

Campbell will start in net for the Leafs, while Timothy Liljegren returns on the blue line after he was sent down for cap reasons related to the Adam Brooks waiver claim that turned out to be for naught. Liljegren will join Jake Muzzin’s paring as (no surprise) the split up of Muzzin-Holl appears to be here to stay.

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge the Blues present for his team tonight:

Certainly, it is as deep of a team as there is. It is a much different-looking team than what we saw out in St. Louis. It is going to be a challenging game today in all three phases — five on five, power play, penalty kill. They are an elite team in all regards.

Keefe on the threats to be mindful of on the Blues power play:

A ton of skill and a ton of depth. Both units, when they are healthy, are coming for two minutes. You have to be ready to handle that. All of the fundamentals in terms of faceoffs, clears, denying your blue line — those are the kinds of things you have to be really good on. There is no letup from the 10 guys that they are using.

Keefe on Timothy Liljegren returning to the lineup:

We didn’t want to take Liljegren out the other day. It was just the circumstances with the Adam Brooks situation that we were in. Liljegren had to come off of the roster as a result. That forced us to move things around.

He has played very well for us and deserves to be in the lineup. It was an easy decision to get him right back in the lineup today and get him right back with Muzzin.

Keefe on Jake Muzzin’s adjustment since returning from his concussion:

Coming off of an injury of that nature, it takes a bit of time — not just to get used to the pace but to be comfortable asserting yourself physically and recognizing that other people are going to want to be physical around you. There is an adjustment period there for sure. Everybody handles it differently.

I don’t think Muzz has had a tremendous amount of experience in dealing with that type of injury, so there can be some anxiety associated with it. I think he is finding his way through it. Our medical staff has been very good and very patient with the approach. He was very patient in terms of making sure he was ready.

It is going to take time in terms of the game reps. I think he is finding his way there.

Keefe on whether he believes the Tavares line is coming around:

I do. From a scoring chance perspective, I really looked at our last couple of games. I think they have really started to come. In the Pittsburgh game, maybe not to the same degree, but certainly, on the road trip, I saw a lot of good, positive signs from them.

In Seattle, there was the goal they were on for late, but the Kerfoot goal was a great goal not just because it gets us going in the game but also the nature of how it happened: forecheck, win the puck back, get off the wall, shoot it in the net. Willy has good traffic at the net at the time. A really good line from a line perspective.

Even in Calgary and Vancouver, it was the same thing. They had chances. Willy missed a couple of breakaways recently. It looks like they are finding their way.

Offensively, it hasn’t gone in necessarily. I went through and looked at all of their scoring chances over the last 10-12 games or so. There has been enough there that the puck should have gone in. Someone like Will, in particular, has missed a lot of chances that were going in for him earlier in the season.

As long as they continue with those types of habits and details that were in that Seattle goal, I think the goals will come.

Keefe on losing Adam Brooks to Winnipeg on waivers:

We were looking forward to adding him to the mix. I coached Adam Brooks for a long time and have a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for him and what he has done for us, whether it is winning the Calder Cup with him or seeing the impact he made with us last season.

He wasn’t going to be starting in the NHL with us. This keeps him in the NHL. If there was going to be anywhere he was going to go, he is a proud Winnipegger, so to be with the Jets is good for him. I am happy for him in that sense.

Blues head coach Craig Berube on the return of Tyler Bozak to the lineup:

He has been a pretty consistent player in his role penalty killing and playing in that role as a fourth-line center. Sometimes he is moved up depending on the situations.

He is an experienced guy who has played a lot of hockey in his career. He gives us a stable guy down the middle of the ice. I don’t expect anything different from him than I normally expect.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#5 Alex Kerfoot – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#65 Ilya Mikheyev  #64 David Kampf – #25 Ondrej Kase
#47 Pierre Engvall – #19 Jason Spezza – #24 Wayne Simmonds

#44 Morgan Rielly –  #78 TJ Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin  – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #3 Justin Holl

Starter: #36 Jack Campbell
#35 Petr Mrazek

Extra: Travis Dermott

St. Louis Blues Projected Lines

#20 Brandon Saad – #90 Ryan O’Reilly – #57 David Perron
#89 Pavel Buchnevic – #18 Robert Thomas – #25 Jordan Kyrou
#49 Ivan Barbashev  – #10 Brayden Schenn – #70 Oskar Sundqvist
#37 Klim Kostin – #21 Tyler Bozak – #22 Logan Brown

#77 Niko Mikkola  – #55 Colton Parayko
#47 Torey Krug – #72 Justin Faulk
#46 Jake Walman – #41 Robert Bortuzzo

Starter: #35 Ville Husso
#50 Jordan Binnington

Injured: Vladimir Tarasenko