The Maple Leafs have a chance to avenge their Oct. 27 overtime loss against a tired San Jose Sharks team tonight at the Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

The key for the Leafs tonight is avoiding the trap game in the first game back home after a long road trip against a team that is among the bottom-feeders in the league at 8-13-4 (29th in points percentage).

As they learned in their visit to San Jose, like most teams in the NHL, there are enough dangerous elements on this Sharks club to hurt you if the effort and execution level isn’t sharp: Erik Karlsson is turning back the clock with Norris Trophy-level play and production, they have an elite penalty kill, and they have three impact forwards inside the top six (Timo Meier, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl) that can hurt you on any given night.

Of course, the Leafs look like an entirely different team since that Oct. 27 loss. Since the end of the California road trip, they’re fourth in the NHL by points percentage with a 10-1-3 record and are allowing just 2.21 goals against per game (also fourth in the NHL since Nov. 1).

The Sharks have won just five of 14 games in November (albeit they collected at least a point in nine of them) while allowing 3.71 goals per game. Tonight’s starter in net for the Sharks, Aaron Dell, will make his season debut between the pipes with San Jose in a back-to-back and James Reimer currently out injured.

Mitch Marner’s opportunity to tie the franchise record with points in 18 consecutive should provide an extra reason to get up for this one, and Sheldon Keefe will also mix in the fresh legs of Nick Robertson on the fourth line.

In net, Ilya Samsonov will return to the crease for the first time since his knee injury against the Boston Bruins on November 5th. With Matt Murray now healthy and playing excellent hockey, the Leafs are hoping their goaltending tandem can finally get rolling together for the first time this season as the calendar hits December — not that goaltending has been an issue for the team whatsoever this season with a .932 save percentage at 5v5 that ranks top five in the league. This is the first time both Murray and Samsonov will be in the lineup since the season opener in Montreal on October 12th.

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge presented by the Sharks:

The biggest challenge, if I had to point to one thing, is Erik Karlsson and the way he is playing. He is driving so many things and he is such a unique player from the backend. He presents real issues if you don’t take care of that. I thought he really had his way with us when we were down in San Jose.

Otherwise, we have a lot of really good things happening with our team right now. Our focus is just on continuing to play a good, sound team game on home ice. That gives us a chance to win every game. That is where our mindset is tonight.

Keefe on how far the team has come since the last meeting against San Jose:

Clearly, we are in a much different space right now with the confidence we have in our team and the foundation we have established. Things have really fallen into place for us on both sides of the puck.

We didn’t break out well last game in Detroit, but on the trip, I think we broke the puck out really well in the three games prior to that. That has really helped us there.

We have talked a lot about the defensive play and where we are at there. A lot of really good things come from that.

Keefe on whether Auston Matthews is starting to get better looks offensively:

I think he has had some better looks. If you look at the two goals he scored toward the end of the trip, on both, he had clean looks in the slot and was basically one-on-one with the goaltender. He has had some of those that haven’t gone in for him.

On both goals, they looked like no doubters in terms of he knows where it is going, where he wants to put it, and he is beating the goalie clean.

San Jose head coach David Quinn on the Sharks’ number-one ranked penalty kill (91.2%):

When you are killing them at the success rate you have, you have a swagger to you when you kill penalties. We have had swagger for a while killing penalties.

… I think it is a testament to the coaches who have been here and coached it. Ryan [Warsofsky] has done a great job picking up where they left off last year.

It is not easy when you step into a situation where you had the #2 penalty kill in the league last year. You want to put your touch on it, but you also understand it has been very successful.

Ryan has found a really good balance of putting his fingerprints on it but also understanding that this thing wasn’t broken.

Keefe on the challenge against the Sharks’ penalty kill:

It is a significant challenge. This is the best penalty kill in the NHL by a pretty wide margin, both in the numbers and when you look at it. We have to be ready for pressure. Our guys will be put to the test tonight in terms of their execution. Passes have to be crisp. You have to find your opportunity, when you escape pressure, to get it to the net.

Victor Mete on Mitch Marner’s communication on the ice defensively:

He just always finds the open space, and if you hear his voice, you know he is open. He is not going to call for it if he is not. I remember in the last game, he was calling for the puck from Gio when Gio is at the blue line and he is behind the net still. He is calling for the puck. It is pretty funny.

He talks a lot. You always hear him. You can always hear his voice… If whoever is open — let’s say Tavares is open — he’ll say, “Johnny is open,” or if he is open, he’ll call for it. He is like a third D out there in the d-zone.

You have another guy back there thinking defensive-minded, but he can also play offensively the same way. It is pretty unique to see. He is good to be with on the ice.

Mete on his pairing with Mac Hollowell:

I think we are playing great. We can both skate and exit the zone. If we are able to do that, I think the offense can take care of the rest. It’s been going well for both of us.

Nick Robertson on re-entering the lineup on a different type of line:

Those guys are workhorses. I am happy to play with [Kämpf and Aston-Reese] and I am excited. Sometimes, you need a little change of view to get things going. I am excited to play with those guys on the fourth tonight.

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 – #47 Pierre Engvall
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #64 David Kämpf – #89 Nick Robertson

#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#98 Victor Mete – #81 Mac Hollowell

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#30 Matt Murray

Extras: Conor Timmins, Denis Malgin, Wayne Simmonds
: Jordie Benn, Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Jake Muzzin

San Jose Sharks Projected Lines

 #28 Timo Meier – #48 Tomas Hertl – #62 Kevin Labanc
#83 Matthew Nieto – #39 Logan Couture – #94 Alexander Barabanov
#73 Noah Gregor – #13 Nick Bonino – #11 Luke Kunin
#23 Oskar Lindblom  – #16 Steven Lorentz – #63 Jeffrey Viel

#24 Jaycob Megna – #65 Erik Karlsson
#44 Marc-Edouard Vlasic – #5 Matt Benning
#59 Nick Cicek – #51 Radim Simek

Starter: #30 Aaron Dell
#36 Kaapo Kahkonen

Injured/Out: Markus Nutivaara, Nikolai Knyzhov, James Reimer, Nico Sturm, Mario Ferraro