Is Patrick Kane auditioning for a possible trade deadline suitor? How about Jake McCabe? On top of Auston Matthews’ return to the lineup and Petr Mrazek’s return to Toronto, there is no shortage of intrigue ahead of this matchup, massive gap in the standings aside (7:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

The Leafs are looking to respond to a loss to the worst team in the league on home ice on Saturday, and they’re on multiple days of rest while the Blackhawks are finishing a back-to-back after last night’s 4-0 loss in Montreal. With Auston Matthews returning as well, there is no excuse for the Leafs not to respond in a big way tonight.

The competition around Toronto continues to pile up points, with Tampa Bay overtaking the Leafs in the battle for home-ice advantage thanks to a comeback shootout win over Colorado last night. With two matchups against Chicago on the docket and one against Montreal this week, six out of six points will be the expectation. And that means reversing an ugly trend of losing more than they’ve won against the bottom eight teams in the league (5-4-4).

In terms of lineup changes, Justin Holl — coming off of a dash-three night against the Blue Jackets — will be a healthy scratch for the first time since the fall of 2021 when he got off to a rough start to the season and Keefe sat him down for a spell of press-box reflection time. Conor Timmins will join a pairing with Rasmus Sandin, while Mark Giordano pairs up with Timothy Liljegren.

Up front, Auston Matthews will reunite with William Nylander coming back from his injury, while Alex Kerfoot joins John Tavares and William Nylander on the second line. That creates a new third line of Pierre Engvall – David Kampf – Calle Järnkrok — a combination Sheldon Keefe told us he had written down before the season but is only now getting around to looking at.

Ilya Samsonov will be between the pipes for the Maple Leafs after recording his third shutout of the season last Friday in Columbus.

Head to Head: Blackhawks vs. Maple Leafs

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

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the team’s need to respond after Saturday night’s loss:

Any time you lay an egg, you want to come back and have a good effort. Really, our focus is more like Friday and less like Saturday. We did a good job on Friday on the road. It was disappointing to come back, have two periods like we did, and let the game get away from us after taking control of the game in the first period.

Friday’s recipe was pretty good. We want to look to get back to that.

Keefe on the challenge of shutting down Patrick Kane:

You have to be aware, take away his time and space, and take away his options. His vision, skill, and ability to control the game are better than anybody, really, in terms of how he can slow the game down or speed the game when he wants to and find people.

He is an exciting player to watch that way, but he is certainly not one we want to watch. We need to be able to get on top of him quickly.

Keefe on keeping Alex Kerfoot in the top six and moving Calle Järnkrok onto the third line:

I think there has been an uptick in Kerfoot’s game since he’s moved up there. That’s a positive thing. We have talked about that a lot in terms of his history of being able to play in that spot.

At the same time, one line I haven’t gotten a look at that I am intrigued about is Järnkrok pairing with Kampf and Engvall. Kampf and Engvall have been pretty consistent for us. Those guys do a really nice job. We have tried different people with them; it just hasn’t necessarily been Järnkrok. I want to get a look at that and see what he can do there.

I thought Jarny did a good job for us playing with John and helping that line defensively while contributing on offense. We are looking to see what he can bring to the pairing of Kampf and Engvall in terms of the defensive responsibility that comes with that line.

Mark Giordano on the challenge of defending Kane:

He is who he is for a reason. He makes plays under pressure all the time. You have to always be aware of where he is on the ice. You also have to be aware of where his options are. He is one of the best passers ever to play.

Giordano on Kane’s reduced production this season and if he is still the same level of threat:

Oh, I think he is [still] an impact player. I have been on teams who are successful. I have been on teams who are lower in the standings. It’s all relative. His numbers are going to reflect where the team is as a whole, but I still look at him as an elite player and one of the best players in the game.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

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

#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#55 Mark Giordano – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #25 Conor Timmins

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#60 Joseph Woll

Extras: Justin Holl, Wayne Simmonds, Jordie Benn
Matt Murray, Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Victor Mete

Chicago Blackhawks Projected Lines

#89 Andreas Athanasiou – #13 Max Domi – #88 Patrick Kane
#23 Philipp Kurashev – #90 Tyler Johnson – #11 Taylor Raddysh
#52 Reese Johnson – #17 Jason Dickinson – #43 Colin Blackwell
#14 Boris Katchouk – #24 Sam Lafferty – #58 Mackenzie Entwistle

#6 Jake McCabe – #4 Seth Jones
#8 Jack Johnson – #5 Connor Murphy
#82 Caleb Jones – #51 Ian Mitchell

Starter: #34 Petr Mrazek
#30 Jaxson Stauber

Injured: Jonathan Toews, Alex Stalock, Jared Tinordi