After yet an extended layoff, the Maple Leafs visit Ottawa tonight for the first game of a hectic six-in-10-days stretch of the schedule (7:00 pm. EST, TSN4/TSN5). 

Leafs fans who prioritize “process over outcome” during the regular season were pleased with their performance against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. The team played well enough to earn two points even though they lost to the Atlantic Division leaders in overtime.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe praised Auston Matthews for a “beast”-like slump-busting performance, scoring two goals (including the tying goal in the final seconds to force overtime) as his line alongside William Nylander and Matthew Knies dominated the run of play. After four days off, the Maple Leafs hope to build on their five-on-five effort from last Saturday when they face the Ottawa Senators in their first visit to the nation’s capital this season.

The Senators have had a good week of their own. Anton Forsberg shut out the Seattle Kraken on Saturday and led the Senators to a 6-2 victory over the high-flying New York Rangers on Tuesday. He is expected to start tonight against the Leafs, who are hoping to avenge a 6-3 loss to Ottawa in Toronto last month.

In the Leafs‘ net, Ilya Samsonov, who has not played since the Global Series, is still recovering from an illness that kept him out of practice until yesterday. Martin Jones will back up Joseph Woll, who will make his fifth consecutive start tonight against the Senators. Woll’s last start against Ottawa was possibly his worst performance of the season (and maybe as an NHLer) as he allowed six goals on 31 shots, but he’s gone 4-1-1 since then with a .916 save percentage.

There are no anticipated changes to the Maple Leafs‘ lineup as Ryan Reaves — who was stapled to the bench for most of the Bruins game — is expected to remain on the fourth line. The Senators will be without their star defenseman, Thomas Chabot, for the second consecutive game as the team awaits a timeline for his recovery from an injury sustained against the Kraken.

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge the Senators present:

I just think their young talent has gotten older. They’ve added pieces along the way, but it’s just a very deep offensive forward group. The top six is as good as anybody, and then on their defense, they have fought through injuries and things like that. Sanderson, of course, is the real deal and brings a lot to their group there. We always seem to get the best version of them.

Keefe on Conor Timmins’ game in his return from injury:

I think he’s done a good job for us. To me, certainly in the last game, it looks like things are slowing down for him. It’s tough for a guy coming back in the lineup after getting injured in training camp and missing a lot of preason to jump right in. It is even harder for a guy that’s still trying to solidfy himself in the league. We just want him to continue to get better.

Keefe on how the team can ensure that Joseph Woll does not get overworked:

We’ve just finished a stretch of seven games in 25 days as a team. I’m not worried right now about anybody being burnt out. But as we get busier, we are going to need two goaltenders.

It’s unfortunate that Samsonov has been ill in the last week or so and hasn’t been able to skate or get much done on practice days. I felt he was making good progress with his time in practice while Woll was playing before he was sick. The last week has been tough on him, and he’s certainly lost time in the net. It’s important to build him back up because we’re going to need him.

Keefe on whether Samsonov will back up Woll tonight: 

He will not. We just decided it was the best thing for him to focus on nothing other than having a good day in the gym and on the ice and not think about anything else.

DJ Smith on the split-crowd atmosphere tonight: 

If we’re playing well, we’re not going to hear the Leafs fans in the building.

Head-to-Head Stats: Maple Leafs vs. Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#23 Matthew Knies – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#89 Nick Robertson – #11 Max Domi – #19 Calle Jarnkrok
#18 Noah Gregor – #64 David Kampf – #75 Ryan Reaves

#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#85 William Lagesson – #22 Jake McCabe
#2 Simon Benoit – #25 Conor Timmins

Starter: #60 Joseph Woll
#31 Martin Jones

ScratchedBobby McMann, Maxime Lajoie
Injured: John Klingberg, Timothy Liljegren, Mark Giordano, Ilya Samsonov

Ottawa Senators Projected Lines

#7 Brady Tkachuk – #9 Josh Norris – #28 Claude Giroux
#91 Vladimir Tarasenko – #18 Tim Stützle – #19 Drake Batherson
#81 Dominik Kubalik – #71 Ridly Greig – #21 Mathieu Joseph
#27 Parker Kelly – #49 Rourke Chartier – #17 Zack MacEwen

#85 Jake Sanderson – #24 Jacob Bernard-Docker
#6 Jakob Chychrun – #23 Travis Hamonic
#26 Erik Brännström – #2 Artem Zub

Starter: #31 Anton Forsberg
#70 Joonas Korpisalo

Injured/Out: Thomas Chabot, Shane Pinto, Mark Kastelic