The Maple Leafs are looking to keep the good times rolling against a tired but angry Calgary Flames team tonight at Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).
A 50-win club in 2021-22, the 13-11-3 Flames are arguably the team playing the furthest below the pre-season expectation level so far in 2022-23, and the quotes from the room after last night’s 3-1 loss in Columbus spelled out the frustration loud and clear:
Darryl Sutter: “We had some guys who came for a visit and not to try to win the hockey game. Very disappointing.”
Mackenzie Weegar: “I’ll take full responsibility for that loss. Tough play in the second period… It got caught between my feet, and I tried to make a play that was clearly not there. Bad play. Just a good ol’ fashion f*** pizza… Just a shitty effort by myself.”
Michael Stone: “We hung our goalie out to dry. Way too many good chances against — breakaways, 2-on-1s, everything… I mean, I gave up a 2-on-0 trying to create a scoring chance. Can’t keep doing that… We have to learn from what we’re doing right and come up with a better effort [on Saturday].”
This will be a different type of test for this red-hot Leafs team as the Flames are a bigger, more physical opponent and should be playing with desperation.
Three lineup changes are in store for the Leafs in wake of the Nick Robertson injury and the Pierre Engvall one-game suspension: Pointless in his last eight games, Denis Malgin moves up onto a line with John Tavares and Mitch Marner; Joey Anderson makes his first appearance for the Leafs since last April on a line with Alex Kerfoot and David Kampf; Wayne Simmonds enters the lineup on the fourth line with Pontus Holmberg and Zach Aston-Reese.
Undefeated in regulation in his last eight, Matt Murray will start in goal for the Leafs, while Dan Vladar — who has strung together four consecutive victories — will likely go for Calgary after Jacob Markstrom took the loss in goal in Columbus last night.
Game Day Quotes
Flames head coach Darryl Sutter on the challenge against the Leafs:
They have points in 13 straight games or something like that? Based on that, they’re the best team in the league right now.
Their top players have taken a whole other level in terms of their leadership by example. It is so evident when you watch them. Even last year, you could see the difference in them.
The big thing is that our top players have to take a step here. I think it has really been missing on the road this year. We have won three games on the road early in Edmonton, against Florida in a shootout, and in Philadelphia.
It tells you that our best players are not playing up to where they need to play to get points.
Sutter on Nazem Kadri’s first season in Calgary so far:
Naz had a really good start. I give him a lot of credit. It was a busy summer — not just in terms of the Cup part, but getting a contract in place and making those decisions with his family. I give him a lot of credit. He came in and had a really good camp.
In his first 10 games, he was really good for us. I’d seen this before with players after winning Cups. You kind of hit a wall at some point in there. He had probably 10 games where he was really good, and then you could see the fatigue in his game. In the last five or six, you could see it come back again.
That is a special type of player. That is a guy who has the intangibles that separate him. You could say he is old school, but there is nothing old school about having a big heart.
Sheldon Keefe on the challenge presented by the Flames:
I have a tremendous amount of respect for their team and their coaching staff. To me, it is a very deep team.
When you look at it, on any particular night, any of their four lines can really be the standout line for them. You are not going to get any shifts off against them.
It’s the same with their defense. They’re big mobile. They’re big. They’re physical. They’re going to be highly physical.
To that end, we are expecting a very fast and competitive hockey game tonight.
Keefe on the status of Nick Robertson’s injury:
He has one of these shoulder injuries that is going to be a situation for him where it is rehab vs. surgery type of thing. He is going to be playing off of that. He is going to approach it with rehab to begin with, but I wouldn’t expect him to miss less than the six-to-eight-week range and kind of see where things are at from there.
Tough news and a tough injury for a player that has really committed himself and works extremely hard. As I said the other night, it sucks even more because he’s been through this before, has had some bad luck with this, and as a young player, it is tough to get traction.
At the same time, because he has been through it before and each time has come out of it a little bit better, it should give him confidence and belief that he has reason to continue to work and push through. At the same time, it gives us that confidence.
Timothy Liljegren on the challenge presented by the Flames:
They’re good on the rush. Big players. They’re good in transition. As long as we keep playing the way we have been playing, we should be fine.
Sutter on the play of his blue line in Friday’s loss to Columbus:
Our defense struggled mightily with the puck, and in coverage, for the whole game.
Their defense blocked shots and took care of business. If you go one D to the other D, ours wasn’t even close. Other than [Tanev], our D was not even close to being in sync or in the compete part of the game at all.
The big guys thought they were wheelers and dealers, and the guys that were wheelers and dealers didn’t touch anybody. It’s the way she goes.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#62 Denis Malgin – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #64 David Kämpf – #28 Joey Anderson
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#78 TJ Brodie – #25 Conor Timmins
Starter: #30 Matt Murray
#35 Ilya Samsonov
Suspended: Pierre Engvall (one game)
Injured: Nick Robertson, Calle Järnkrok, Jordie Benn, Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin
Calgary Flames Projected Lines
#10 Jonathan Huberdeau – #28 Elias Lindholm – #73 Tyler Toffoli
#29 Dillon Dube – #91 Nazem Kadri – #88 Andrew Mangiapane
#63 Adam Ruzicka – #11 Mikael Backlund – #20 Blake Coleman
#63 Adam Ruzicka – #22 Trevor Lewis – #41 Matthew Phillips
#55 Noah Hanifin – #4 Rasmus Andersson
#52 Mackenzie Weegar – #8 Chris Tanev
#16 Nikita Zadorov – #26 Michael Stone
Starter: #80 Daniel Vladar (unconfirmed)
#25 Jacob Markstrom
Injured/Out: Oliver Kylington