The Maple Leafs will keep rolling with Ilya Samsonov as they look to avenge a mid-December loss to the New York Rangers tonight at Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

Faced with another tough challenge in the opposition’s net tonight (Igor Shesterkin), the final 40 minutes against the Islanders in which the Leafs lit up Ilya Sorokin for five goals were enough to convince Sheldon Keefe to stick by Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner / John Tavares – William Nylander combinations as well as his defense pairings from the final two periods in Morgan Rielly – Justin Holl / Mark Giordano – Timothy Liljegren. Conor Timmins will take a seat in favour of Jordie Benn, who will partner up with Rasmus Sandin.

Keefe is also lighting a fire under the bottom six both by keeping Bobby McMann in the lineup and inserting the called-up Joey Anderson in the place of the veteran Zach Aston-Reese:

We just think Joey did a good job when he was there. The roster, the lineup, and all of those kinds of things are fluid and they change. We thought he did a good job here.

I can’t remember what the specific circumstances were when we sent him back or what the situation was, but we just like him as a player. It gives us a right shot down in the bottom six. I like that part of it.

For Reeser, his game has been a little inconsistent for me. It keeps those guys on their toes as well. Whether it is McMann coming in — which has pushed a guy like Dryden Hunt and Aston-Reese — or now Holmberg coming back, those guys are in competition for their spots.

Whether it is Kampf, Engvall, or Kerfoot — just the same. You have some guys coming in here that are pushing and showing they can help us. I think it keeps that group honest as well.

Head to Head: Rangers vs. Maple Leafs

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

Game Day Quotes

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant on the challenge against the Leafs:

Toronto is a strong team. They have a great offense and a ton of talent. They work hard. We were fortunate to win the last time we played them. I think it was a 3-1 game. There were a lot of chances both ways.

We have to manage the puck really well against that team. They are a very talented team and skilled team. When they execute, they are tough to stop.

We have a talented team, too. We have a talented group. I look forward to tonight’s game. You have two teams that are, in my opinion, pretty similar. A lot of skill and a lot of talent. Let’s go play.

Gallant on the matchup challenge against Matthews-Marner:

They’re great players. The other combinations are pretty good, too, with their team.  Mitch and Matthews are great players. They have great chemistry together. The other line with Nylander is not too bad, either.

Talented group. You have to pay attention to the whole team. They win as a team. They play hard as a team. That is why they are having success this year.

Sheldon Keefe on what the team needs to improve on from its loss to the Rangers back on Dec. 15:

We have to score more than one goal. We played a good hockey game down there. Looking back on it, we did a lot of good things in that game. We just didn’t score enough.

Keefe on the spark Matthews-Marner / Tavares-Nylander provided vs. the Islanders and the reasoning for keeping them together:

I thought, from the drop of the puck in the second period the other night, it really sparked our team with the way that those two started to move the puck around. I think it just brought the game to life.

I think that is the type of impact it can have on our team in terms of really giving our team a boost, energizing the group, and giving the group confidence. All of those kinds of things can come when those guys are really playing the way that they can.

We saw, at the same time, John and Will are connecting. When both lines are going like that, we become a tough group to stop. We will put those guys back together and look to have a sound team game inside of all of that.

If those guys coming back together can energize the group as we go through the final stretch before the break, it will be good for us.

Keefe on the flexibility available to swap the wingers inside the top six:

A big part of it is Will and the way he has played this season and the consistency that he has played with. It has made it so that whoever he is with can be confident and comfortable that they are going to have a guy who is going to be there who is going to push the pace and is going to make a play or finish a play. He is going to hold up his end on the defensive side of it.

All of those sorts of things have allowed it to work no matter where we have put different guys. That is it. Consistency is a daily thing. We will continue to stay at it with all of our players.

Keefe on his team’s defensive improvements this season:

I think it is just a mindset. In the last couple of seasons, I think we’ve done a lot of good things defensively. I think it has continued.

The injuries that we had on defense really got everybody’s attention in terms of the details and the necessity to stay focused on really playing a great team game to help insulate our defense. That plays a role.

The makeup of our team is a little bit different as well. We have added some guys with real defensive utility at the bottom end of the group. That helps consistently throughout the game. At times, maybe we aren’t generating as much offense — particularly in the bottom six — but I think defensively we have given up a lot less than we have in the past as well.

I think that helps a lot of the perception in terms of the stats as a whole or us being very consistent line-to-line defensively.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#19 Calle Järnkrok – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#74 Bobby McMann – #64 David Kämpf – #47 Pierre Engvall
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #28 Joey Anderson

#44 Morgan Rielly – #3 Justin Holl
#55 Mark Giordano – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #18 Jordie Benn

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#30 Matt Murray

Extras: Conor Timmins, Zach Aston-Reese, Wayne Simmonds
 TJ Brodie, Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Victor Mete

New York Rangers Projected Lines

#10 Artemi Panarin – #93 Mika Zibanejad – #20 Chris Kreider
#26 Jimmy Vesey – #16 Vincent Trocheck – #21 Barclay Goodrow
#13 Alexis Lafreniere  – #72 Filip Chytil – #24 Kaapo Kakko
#50 Will Cuylle – #15 Jake Leschyshyn – #12 Julien Gauthier

#55 Ryan Lindgren – #23 Adam Fox
#79 K’Andre Miller – #8 Jacob Trouba
#5 Ben Harpur – #45 Braden Schneider

Starter: #31 Igor Shesterkin
#41 Jaroslav Halak