The injuries keep piling up, but so do the wins. The Maple Leafs lost yet another defenseman to injury against New Jersey and were dealt the heart-breaking news of Börje Salming’s passing yesterday, but they now forge ahead with a stop in Minnesota for an American Thanksgiving matinee (2 p.m. EST, TSN4).
This is a meeting between two of the lowest-scoring 5v5 teams in the league, with the Leafs at 36 goals through 21 games and the Wild at 31 through 19 games. For that reason, Sheldon Keefe’s decision to take Nick Robertson back out of the lineup after the win in New Jersey in favour of Wayne Simmonds will face some scrutiny depending on the result today.
The positive news is that the Leafs have now allowed two or fewer goals in all 11 of their victories so far this season, which is quite the statistic and speaks to their defensive efforts as a team — which they’ve doubled down on with the injuries mounting on the blue line — as well as the consistent goaltending that has given them a chance to win every night.
While the Leafs were grinding out a 2-1 win in New Jersey, Minnesota experienced an offensive breakout in their most recent game, a 6-1 win over Winnipeg that included two power-play goals and a season-high four goals at even strength. Overall, it’s been a mediocre first 19 games for the Wild, who enter the game on the outside of the playoff picture with a 9-8-2 record and a zero goal differential.
With Jordie Benn out week-to-week with an upper-body injury, Victor Mete will enter the lineup on a bottom pairing with Mac Hollowell, who will play his second NHL game. Conor Timmins’ Leafs debut will need to wait as the coaching staff opts to give him time to get up to speed with his new team coming off of his AHL conditioning stint in Tucson prior to the trade. Needless to say, big minutes are in store again for the top four of Mark Giordano – Justin Holl / Rasmus Sandin – Timothy Liljegren.
In their visit to Minnesota last season, the Maple Leafs stormed back from 3-0 down — led by two Jason Spezza goals — before falling in a shootout.
Game Day Quotes
Sheldon Keefe on the decision to insert Wayne Simmonds into the lineup:
It is a big and physical team. At the same time, we have lost a lot of size and experience out of our lineup on defense, in particular. Our options there are limited at this point with having five guys out.
Getting him in on forward is overdue. He has been sitting for a long time. I just think it makes a lot of sense, all things considered.
Keefe on the decision to move Calle Järnkork up into a top-six role:
One thing he has shown, first of all, is that he is defensively responsible but also that he can score. If you get him the puck in good spots, he is going to put it in. He showed that in preseason. He has shown that in the regular season here.
His game, I think, is starting to trend in the right direction — his overall game, and yet within the period that we have played here, I think he still found ways to contribute to our team. He has scored big goals and contributed at five-on-five for us. He is a good penalty killer with good defensive habits. He gives you absolutely everything he has on every shift.
To that end, we wanted to give him that opportunity. We also just like how it shapes up the rest of the lines.
Keefe on the plan for Conor Timmins:
In talking with him, he wasn’t on the ice for three days before coming in here. Our approach with him is getting him in and getting him comfortable.
Obviously, we have a great need and there is a great opportunity on defense right now with the injuries we are going through. And yet we want to make sure we put him in a good spot to succeed both in coming into a new team and the fact that he hasn’t skated. We will take it a day at a time.
Like I said to him, I think it is very clear that we have a great opportunity here both in the injuries we had prior to last night — there was a need to add another defenseman to the depth of our group — and more so now with Benn going out.
Timothy Liljegren on yet another injury on the blue line:
We just have to bear down and continue as we have been going as late. I think we are playing pretty solid defensively. We’ll just continue with that and with guys stepping up to win as many games as we can.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#19 Calle Järnkrok – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #64 David Kämpf – #47 Pierre Engvall
#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#98 Victor Mete – #81 Mac Hollowell
Starter: #30 Matt Murray
#50 Erik Källgren
Extras: Conor Timmins, Nick Robertson, Denis Malgin
Injured: Jordie Benn, Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Jake Muzzin, Ilya Samsonov
Minnesota Wild Projected Lines
#97 Kirill Kaprizov – #13 Sam Steel – #36 Mats Zuccarello
#18 Jordan Greenway – #89 Frederick Gaudreau – #12 Matthew Boldy
#21 Brandon Duhaime – #14 Joel Eriksson Ek – #17 Marcus Foligno
#58 Mason Shaw – #26 Connor Dewar – #19 Nic Petan
#5 Jacob Middleton – #46 Jared Spurgeon
#33 Alex Goligoski – #24 Mathew Dumba
#4 Jon Merrill – #2 Calen Addison
Starter: #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (unconfirmed)
#32 Filip Gustavsson
Injured: Ryan Hartman, Jonas Brodin