Coming off a disappointing result against Detroit in which they lost Matt Murray to injury (again), the Maple Leafs take on a struggling Blue Jackets team with the goal of inching two points closer to clinching home-ice advantage in round one (7:00 p.m. EST, TSN4).

The Blue Jackets don’t have much of anything going right as they sit just two points out of last place with 11 losses in their last 16 games. They did most recently pull off a 4-3 OT victory against a desperate Sens team who lost their second in a row after Ottawa’s shutout defeat to the Leafs on Saturday.

20-year-old Rookie Kent Johnson, who has 39 points in 75 games this season (including five goals and seven assists on the power play), opened the scoring on the man advantage just over two minutes into the game. Columbus went down 3-2 off a late first-period goal by Alex Debrincat and struggled to possess the puck for the rest of the 40 minutes of regulation, as has been a constant for them this season.

Despite only throwing 20 shots on net in the game, Boone Jenner tied it up with just over five minutes left, sending the game to overtime. At three-on-three, Kirill Marchenko took a feed from Johnny Gaudreau off a puck bobble by Tim Stutzle and fired home a nice short-side snipe for the winner just 16 seconds into overtime.

Their win over Ottawa aside, the Blue Jackets have given up 5.4 GA/60 in their last 10 games compared to 3.9 over the full season. Bolstering their tanking efforts, Elvis Merzlikin’s injury will force undrafted rookie Jet Greaves into his very first NHL action tonight.

The 22-year-old has yet to play a minute in the NHL, playing in 38 games in the AHL this season after splitting time between the AHL and ECHL in 2021-22. Merzlikins’ injury has kept him out since Saturday, and with Michael Hutchinson losing his last three starts and Joonas Korpisalo off-loaded at the deadline, the Jackets will see how the rookie handles his first NHL game in Toronto. Greaves is 16-14-5 for the Cleveland Monsters this season with a .895 save percentage.

With Mark Giordano, Jake McCabe, and Mitch Marner all returning from their rest on Saturday, there will be a number of changes to the lineup tonight as the Leafs continue to experiment in some areas while reverting back to comfortable combinations in others.

After receiving the fewest five-on-five minutes of the Leafs‘ six defensemen on Sunday (by a small margin), Timothy Liljegren will return to a familiar pair with Mark Giordano. TJ Brodie will start with Morgan Rielly in a rekindling of a duo that’s typically brought the best out of Rielly over the years. That leaves Jake McCabe and Justin Holl together; they’ve played 30 minutes as a pair with a positive xG share of 55.3%.

Erik Gustafsson, who has remained away from the team due to a personal issue and missed out on their last five games, will be a scratch again tonight. He was on a flight during the Leafs‘ morning availability, so he did not practice this morning and hasn’t skated since leaving the team on March 24th. However, according to Keefe, he will participate in warmups tonight in anticipation of getting him back on the ice for practice tomorrow.

With a freak injury putting Matt Murray’s season back into limbo, the Leafs will turn back to Joseph Woll tonight as we anticipate Ilya Samsonov taking the start against the record-chasing Boston Bruins on Thursday. Woll is 3-1-0 this season with a .924 save percentage.

Other changes on Toronto’s side include Noel Acciari’s return from a whiplash injury. Radim Zahorna, after two solid performances, was loaned to the Marlies as the Leafs needed a roster spot to emergency recall Woll. Zahorna’s Marlies counterpart, Nick Abruzzese, will stay in the lineup with the big club as the Leafs return to a 12/6 setup tonight.

Head to Head: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs

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

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on Matt Murray’s head injury:

Right now, it’s going to be a day-to-day thing in terms of sorting through exactly where he’s and what the time frame might be. It would be difficult to put any real timeline on it until we give him more time to settle.

Keefe on turning to Joseph Woll tonight:

Joe’s been terrific for us, so you press on. Obviously, with [Samsonov] and [Woll], we’ve got a lot of confidence there and Sammy’s been really rolling toward the playoffs here.

On that side of it, I don’t think it’s too much of a disruption, and it’s a good chance for us to get Woll going. Internally, we were talking about getting him involved in these last couple of weeks anyhow, so it works out that way.

Keefe on the status of Ryan O’Reilly:

He’s really close [to returning] but is not going to play tonight. He wants to play. He’s excited to get going, but they’re going to hold him out again. He’s going to get another follow-up and another picture of the finger today, and that will set the course for the rest of the week.

Keefe on mixing up lines again by placing Marner and Nylander on the same line to start the game while keeping Jarnkrok and Bunting with Matthews:

Obviously, wherever we put Mitch, that line has done really well, so that’s something we’re confident and comfortable with — as we are with Mitch and Auston [together] as well. Other than when I stack a line here or there during a game, we haven’t worked with [Marner] and [Nylander] together a lot, so that’s something I wanted to give a little bit of time to.

I think the way that [Matthews] and Jarnkrok have come together and how they’ve played of late gives me an opportunity to let that continue to develop while also knowing that [Matthews] and Bunting do really well together.

To me, Bunting’s game has been trending in the right direction for a while now, and this is more of a look that I’ve been wanting to work towards.

Keefe on going back to a more familiar look tonight on defense, with Brodie returning to Rielly’s right side:

Rielly and Brodie is something that we’ve used a lot and we’re very comfortable with, as we are with Giordano and Lily. McCabe and Holl have done well in a small sample [as well].

It’s something we want to look at while also continuing to cycle players in and out. I decided I wanted to stay with 12/6 here today. It gives us another chance to look at Nick Abruzzese, but more importantly, it helps us have everything else a little more settled.

Keefe on the plan for his defensemen going forward:

Luke Schenn will have the night off, and then he’ll go back in against Boston. I think we’ve had a pretty good sample now of different pairings, so I think we can move on from that for a little bit here tonight and look at some things that have been a little bit more familiar to us.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #19 Calle Järnkrok
#88 William Nylander – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #64 David Kämpf – #28 Sam Lafferty
#26 Nick Abruzzese – #52 Noel Acciari – #15 Alex Kerfoot

#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#55 Mark Giordano – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#22 Jake McCabe – #3 Justin Holl

Starter: #30 Matt Murray
#35 Ilya Samsonov

Extras:  Erik Gustafsson, Luke Schenn, Connor Timmins, Wayne Simmonds
Matt Murray, Ryan O’Reilly, Bobby McMann, Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Victor Mete

Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines

#13 Johnny Gaudreau – #38 Boone Jenner – #86 Kirill Marchenko
#91 Kent Johnson – #96 Jack Roslovic – #19 Liam Foudy
#50 Eric Robinson – #7 Sean Kuraly – #52 Emil Bemstrom
#46 Joona Luoto – #21 Josh Dunn– #41 Hunter McKown

#15 Gavin Bayreuther – #2 Andrew Peeke
#75 Tim Berni – #27 Adam Boqvist
#47 Marcus Bjork – #6 Bill Sweezey

Starter: #73 Jet Greaves
#31 Micheal Hutchinson

Injured: Jake Bean, Patrick Laine, Zach Werenski, Jakub Voracek, Gustav Nyquist, Adam Boqvist, Nick Blankenburg, Justin Danforth, Erik Gudbranson, Elvis Merzlikins