The Maple Leafs are looking to end 2022 on a high note but will need to contend with the return of Nathan MacKinnon tonight in Colorado (7:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

Happy New Year, MLHS denizens!

Head to Head: Leafs vs. Avalanche

In the season-to-date statistics, the Leafs hold the advantage over the Avalanche in three out of five offensive categories and four out of five defensive categories.

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the ice-time distribution on the blue line:

That’s the one thing you learn as you go through injuries and such that you rely on others and they show that they’re capable. As long as that continues to be the case, we can share the minutes and not have to tax anyone too much.

If we’re going to slip and things are going to not be at the standard that they were, then we’re going to have to continue to look at the minutes and make some adjustments and maybe the opportunity won’t be as great.

Keefe on the team’s third-period struggles in the past few games:

That is two games in a row now that we have given up a lead in the third period. You can’t hang onto the past. We’ve come out of the break on the road, and it’s two games we’ve been in control of. It got away on us for different reasons.

Again, we took a careless penalty in the third period. We had it all but killed and failed to get it out, and then it is in our net. It is little details like that where we were just a little off — a little off in the execution there, a little off on the execution of the high-end chances we did have.

John Tavares on the boost Morgan Rielly provides to the lineup:

He’s an elite defenseman with and without the puck. Anytime you add him back in, it’s huge for the group. No doubt, he’ll probably only feel better and better as the next few games go by.

Morgan Rielly on his first game back:

I thought it was pretty good. I think that was more of a concern than the injury. The injury healed, and I think I am in pretty good shape. It is more just the timing thing. All in all, I think it was alright. There is always room for improvement. As I continue to practice, it is only going to get better.

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 – #64 David Kämpf – #47 Pierre Engvall
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #20 Dryden Hunt

#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl
#44 Morgan Rielly – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#78 TJ Brodie – #25 Conor Timmins

Starter: #30 Matt Murray (unconfirmed)
#35 Ilya Samsonov

Extras: Jordie Benn, Joey Anderson, Wayne Simmonds
: Rasmus Sandin, Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Victor Mete

Colorado Avalanche Projected Lines

#62 Artturi Lehkonen – #29 Nathan Mackinnon – #96 Mikko Rantanen
#18 Alex Newhook – #9 Evan Rodrigues – #81 Denis Malgin
#11 Andrew Cogliano – #37 JT Compher – #25 Logan O’Connor
#56 Kurtis MacDermid – #59 Ben Meyers – #26 Jacob MacDonald

#8 Cale Makar – #7 Devon Toews
#49 Samuel Girard – #6 Erik Johnson
#88 Andreas Englund – #17 Brad Hunt

Starter: #40 Alexandar Georgiev
#55 Jonas Johansson

Injured: Gabriel Landeskog, Darren Helm, Josh Manson, Bowen Byram, Valeri Nichushkin, Pavel Francouz, Shane Bowers