Jack Campbell will return to the crease and Nick Abruzzese will make his NHL debut for the Maple Leafs tonight as they start a four-game road trip in Philadelphia (7:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).
For a Leafs team that lost two games to Buffalo, two to Montreal, and one to Arizona in the past six weeks while also beating the top competition in Carolina, Florida, and Boston, the key is not overlooking this game against a Flyers team that is banged up, auditioning rookies, moved out pieces at the deadline, and is playing out the stretch with an eye towards the draft lottery — especially knowing it could be tempting to look ahead to the back-to-back against Tampa and Florida coming up.
The Maple Leafs will receive the boost of Jack Campbell’s return between the pipes for his first start since March 8th. His rib injury sidelined him coming off of a 17-game stretch where he posted just a .882 save percentage despite winning nine of his 15 starts.
The Leafs are hoping the opportunity to reset mentally — and recover physically — for a goaltender that has not experienced the full grind of a starter’s workload over an 82-game season will stand Campbell in good stead through the final stretch drive and into the playoffs.
With the insurance policy in Petr Mrazek proving completely unreliable this season (now sidelined for at least six weeks), it’s not dramatic to suggest the Leafs‘ postseason hopes and dreams rest on Campbell peaking in terms of his health and playing form at just the right time of year.
In terms of other lineup changes, the Leafs will return to their defense pairs from their impressive wins against Florida and Boston: Ilya Lyubushkin returns from a jaw injury and rejoins Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie reunites with Justin Holl, and Timothy Liljegren slides back in next to Mark Giordano.
On the fourth line, at a time when the Leafs are adding Nick Abruzzese and Colin Blackwell into the fourth line for the first time, it’s interesting that Sheldon Keefe will opt to sit Jason Spezza for this game; it’s a chance to ice as skilled of a fourth line for Spezza to play on as he’s had at any point this season. There should be other chances to see it in the remaining 13 games, though — and there may be an eye towards resting Spezza and having him ready to play in both games of the difficult back-to-back against the Lightning and Panthers on Monday-Tuesday.
Game Day Quotes
Flyers head coach Mike Yeo on the decision to scratch Keith Yandle, ending his ironman streak at 989 games:
As an organization, we’re at a point in the season where it is important we get some young players — not to say that we are not playing hard with what’s going on right now, but we obviously have to have an eye toward the future, what is coming down the road, and give some new guys an opportunity.
Yeo on how Yandle received the news:
He received it exactly the way you would expect Keith Yandle to handle it. He is nothing but a phenomenal pro. He handled it extremely well. He was obviously disappointed, which you would expect from a competitor and a hockey player who has been doing it as long as he has.
My only hope is that he just recognizes how amazing it is what he has done. Obviously, for sure, it is disappointing, but not many people can say they have done something nobody in the history of the NHL has ever done. In no way does this diminish what he has accomplished. It is remarkable. Certainly, it is something to be extremely proud of.
Keith Yandle on the end of his ironman streak:
You know, towards the end of a year, when you are signing young guys and getting free agents out of college, they are going to give them a chance to play. You have to respect that on the business side of it and what they are trying to do here.
For me, it is just about continuing to come to the rink and help young guys out, be a good teammate, and be here for guys.
Sheldon Keefe on Nick Abruzzese’s skill set:
Very smart player. When I watched him on video and when I got all the reports, that is the biggest thing that stands out: his ability to process the game. In any of my discussions with him, whether it is doing video or just having a conversation, with some of the questions that he asks, he is just a smart player who I think is going to be able to adjust to that part of the game quickly.
I watched a lot of him playing in the Olympics. While it is certainly not the NHL, I was particularly focused on the game against Canada, which was essentially made up of players I know very well, whether I coached against them in the NHL or AHL, and are all top players at the AHL level, certainly.
Seeing him compete and play the game at that level gives me confidence that he is going to be able to adapt quickly to a more challenging level in the NHL.
Keefe on returning to the previous defense pairings with Ilya Lyubushkin back in the lineup:
We have liked the way those pairings have gone for us, and yet we do, with Giordano’s arrival, want to get a feel for different things to be prepared for whatever might come our way in the playoffs or down the stretch. We have to make sure we continue to monitor that. We are running out of games here.
We will expect to go back to what we had previously, but we are having daily discussions on it. Muzzin’s return is going to force us to change some things just like Lyubushkin being out changed some things. Some of that will happen naturally. We do want to get some looks at some different combinations as we get going here, but for tomorrow, I think we will settle back into what we had.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #91 John Tavares – #15 Alex Kerfoot
#47 Pierre Engvall – #64 David Kampf – #88 William Nylander
#26 Nick Abruzzese – #11 Colin Blackwell – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#44 Morgan Rielly – #46 Ilya Lyubushkin
#78 TJ Brodie – #3 Justin Holl
#55 Mark Giordano – #37 Timothy Liljegren
Starter: #36 Jack Campbell
#50 Erik Källgren
Extras: Jason Spezza, Kyle Clifford
Injured: Ondrej Kase, Rasmus Sandin
LTIR: Jake Muzzin, Petr Mrazek
Philadelphia Flyers Projected Lines
#59 Jackson Cates – #86 Joel Farabee – #89 Cam Atkinson
#23 Oskar Lindblom – #13 Kevin Hayes – #42 Hayden Hodgson
#25 James van Riemsdyk – #48 Morgan Frost – #74 Owen Tippett
#11 Nate Thompson – #9 Patrick Brown – #17 Zach MacEwen
#9 Ivan Provorov – #45 Cam York
#6 Travis Sanheim – #70 Rasmus Ristolainen
#24 Nick Seeler – #47 Ronnie Attard
Starter: #79 Carter Hart
#35 Martin Jones
Injured/Out: Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton, Travis Konecny, Samuel Morin, Ryan Ellis