Matt Murray makes his preseason debut between the pipes for the Maple Leafs while the battle for roster spots up front and on the blue line continues to heat up as the Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens in the third game of their 2022-23 preseason (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).
– Opportunities are there for the taking with the injuries to John Tavares, Pierre Engvall, and Adam Gaudette (as well as Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin’s absences on the blue line). There are a ton of unknowns to sort out at the forward position beneath the top line in this Leafs lineup, and Denis Malgin, Nick Robertson, Alex Steeves, Pontus Holmberg, Joey Anderson, Nicholas Abruzzese, and Bobby McMann should all have plenty of reasons to be hungry tonight as they look to fight their way into NHL minutes or put themselves at the top of the callup list. Let the competition continue.
– Listening to Sheldon Keefe discuss Nick Robertson‘s camp so far, they’re impressed by the physical shape he is in and his work ethic is undeniable, but they want to see him influence the game more from an offensive standpoint, which he hasn’t delivered on yet. He’ll receive a good opportunity to reverse that trend next to veteran NHL talent on a line with Alex Kerfoot and Calle Jarnkrok tonight.
– Appearing in his first preseason game is six-foot-eight centerman Curtis Douglas, a fast-rising “project” prospect who really put himself on the map last season with the Marlies with the gains he showed in his offensive game to go along with the size and physicality. Can he put himself in the conversation on the callup list?
– Pontus Holmberg appears to be making a real case for a roster spot, specifically an opening-night lineup spot at the C position. His well-rounded skill set and mature game, honed through ample professional experience in the SHL, have caught the attention of the coaching staff. He’ll receive another great opportunity on a line with William Nylander and Denis Malgin for the second straight game.
– More reps on the right are in store for both Jordie Benn and Victor Mete tonight, with Benn slotting in on Morgan Rielly‘s right. The Leafs will trot out six left-handed defensemen tonight with Liljegren out and Justin Holl not playing, including TJ Brodie playing to the right of Mark Giordano, a throwback to their Calgary Flames days.
“We have some competition going on right now in Benn, Mete, and Dahlstrom,” said Sheldon Keefe. “They are competing to see where they might land for us. We are monitoring Liljegren’s injury status and Muzzin’s. We have a lot of moving parts there that are going to affect the final decision on it, but for now, we are just moving things around.”
“We are confident in Rielly-Brodie and can go to it any time. Muzzin – Brodie did a good job for us as well. We know Giordano and Brodie and their history. We have options there and we are going to explore different things… The injury situation makes it complicated.”
– Let’s try not to overreact to Matt Murray‘s first 40 minutes of preseason action one way or another tonight, but it will be good to get a first look at him nonetheless.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lineup
Nylander – Holmberg – Malgin
Robertson – Kerfoot – Jarnkrok
McMann – Abruzzese – Steeves
Clifford – Douglas – Anderson
Rielly – Benn
Giordano – Brodie
Dahlstrom – Mete
Murray (40 minutes)
Montreal Canadiens Projected Lineup
Slafkovsky – Pitlick – Armia
Heineman – Evans – Ylonen
Mesar – Beck – Stephens
Condotta – Schnarr – Bourque
Schueneman – Wideman
Xhekaj – Harris
Leskinen – Barron