It’s Ilya Samsonov’s time to get his season back on track as the Maple Leafs forge ahead without Joseph Woll (high-ankle sprain) starting tonight against the Nashville Predators (7:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet). 

Samsonov hasn’t seen game action since the Leafs‘ 4-3 overtime loss on Black Friday in Chicago due to a combination of a flu bug and a strong run of form from Woll before his injury in the third period in Ottawa. The Leafs actually have points in seven of Samsonov’s eight starts this season despite a .878 save percentage, but with their defense currently running out Simon Benoit – Jake McCabe / Max Lajoie – Conor Timmins in behind their Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie top pairing, they’ll likely need more saves than that if they’re going to keep grinding out results during a particularly busy stretch of the schedule (six games in 10 days).

At the other end of the ice, Samsonov won’t have to face off against one of the game’s elite in Juuse Saros, who gave the Leafs fits in their OT loss to the Predators in Nashville earlier this season. The Predators are giving Saros, who has played more games than any NHL goalie over the past two seasons (84), a rare night off. Kevin Lankinen, who is 3-2-0 with a .901 save percentage, will take the start in goal.

On defense, William Lagesson’s illness will keep him out of the lineup for the second consecutive game, which means it is the same group of six from the Leafs‘ win over Ottawa. Up front, based on the morning skate lines, it appears Ryan Reaves — who is averaging under seven minutes of ice time over his last three games — will remain on the fourth line.

Update: 6:40 p.m. EST

Game Day Quotes

Max Domi on tweeting out his excitement about Shohei Ohtani seemingly coming to Toronto amid the flurry of erroneous reports on Friday:

I was so pumped! I am a Jays fan and a Toronto sports fan in general. I tweeted out because it looked like it was happening.

I went out to an event, and a few hours later, I looked at my phone. All of my friends were texting [asking], “What do you know?” When did I become the MLB insider? I have no idea what is going on. I don’t know the guy at all.

As a Jays fan, I was really hopeful that he was coming. I am still hopeful. We will see.

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge the Predators present:

Good depth through their group. If you look at it from lines one to four, they are getting really good contributions. Their power play caused some problems when we saw them out there.

They are playing really well right now. They have won eight of their last 10 and three in a row coming in. They are a confident group going about their business. We have to be ready for them.

The challenge remains with us and our own game. With Lagesson being out now, you have four defensemen not in our group. We have moved things around. To me, our whole group has to take care of one another with how we play the game, manage the puck, how competitive we are, and how tight we are in terms of adherence to structure.

That is really what my focus is no matter who we are playing, whether it is tonight or in the near future through this busy stretch.

Keefe on his reaction to the news of Joe Woll’s high-ankle sprain:

I came to terms with the news pretty quickly the other night. It doesn’t change anything for me. Tough blow for our team. Tough blow for Joseph. But a tremendous opportunity now for the other two guys.

Samsonov, in particular, hasn’t played for quite a while and has been trying to find his game and trying to find a groove. Here you go.

Keefe on Ryan O’Reilly’s impact in Toronto during his short tenure as a Leaf:

With the way that he trains and the way he goes about his business every day, it is very obvious how much of a professional he is. You see the time he spends off the ice and on the ice.

Despite his age and his accomplishments in the league, the routine and process he goes through to continue to play at a high level are impressive. We have talked about how John Tavares is one of those guys. O’Reilly is right there.

Both [O’Reilly] and Luke Schenn brought a lot to us in their short time with us. Both are tremendous guys. I had a chance to talk to them when we were down in Nashville. They enjoyed their time here. I think they are enjoying their time in Nashville. Both are tremendous leaders and professionals.

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

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

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

#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#2 Simon Benoit – #22 Jake McCabe
#48 Max Lajoie – #25 Conor Timmins

Starter: #30 Ilya Samsonov
#31 Martin Jones

ScratchedBobby McMann, Mikko Kokkonen
Injured/Out: Joseph Woll, John Klingberg, Timothy Liljegren, Mark Giordano, William Lagesson

Nashville Predators Projected Lines

#9 Filip Forsberg – #90 Ryan O’Reilly – #14 Gustav Nyquist
#44 Kiefer Sherwood – #82 Thomas Novak – #77 Luke Evangelista
#13 Yakov Trenin – #10 Colton Sissons – #36 Cole Smith
#75 Juuso Parssinen – #8 Cody Glass – #26 Philip Tomasino

#27 Ryan McDonagh – #59 Roman Josi
#3 Jeremy Lauzon – #45 Alex Carrier
#22 Tyson Barrie – #2 Luke Schenn

Starter: #32 Kevin Lankinen
#74 Juuse Saros