In the first leg of a back-to-back, Ilya Samsonov returns to the net and Mark Giordano is back on the blue line as the Maple Leafs close out the season series against Columbus with their third matchup against the Blue Jackets in the last 15 days (7:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet Ontario). 

Game Day Quotes

Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent on the loss of number-one defenseman Zach Werenski to injury (joining Boone Jenner, Patrik Laine, and others on the IR):

We are not in a good position as far as losing those guys, but last year was just unreal. I have never seen anything like it in terms of losing one after another.

What I have learned is that a team can still compete regardless. It is not about the talent. It is about the compete level, especially when we are in that position. I believe that the structure of your team can save or win some games when you are facing that kind of adversity.

Quite frankly, we don’t even talk about it. We don’t talk about who is in an who is out with the players. We have 20 players. The league tells us we need to put out five plus a goalie on every shift. That is what we are going to do.

Of course, on paper, it doesn’t look as good, but the mindset is that it doesn’t matter. We are a skating team. We are going to respect our structure. We are going to attack that game with a mindset of winning. It is the only way to do it.

Sheldon Keefe on what he has learned about the Blue Jackets through seeing them so often of late:

I see a team that has a ton of skill and speed to move the puck, make plays, and score.

If you look at the teams toward the bottom of the league, it is not just Columbus but some others who are some of the best offensive teams in the league at five-on-five. Columbus is right there. Their production at five-on-five is right near the top of the league.

It shows they can score. If you give them opportunities, they are going to make it really hard on you. Right away, they get your attention in that area.

They are growing in terms of their habits and structure. They are getting more experienced in the league. I think there are a lot of young players and a lot of skill there for the organization and its fans to be excited about.

There are a lot of reasons why we have to be at our best. They certainly got our attention when they played us on the first night in Toronto. I thought we had a better effort and were more dialed in on our details and our special teams in game two. It is going to have to be more of the same tonight.

Keefe on hitting game #300 behind the bench:

If there is one thing that I have learned about this league, in particular, it is that you focus on each particular day as it comes. They come fast. Every single game is a difficult one. You have to go about it and prepare for it just as you would any other. You can’t really get caught up in numbers, milestones, or records. Every day demands your best.

The journey — like all of ours in the last number of years here — with Covid, playing with no fans, the bubble, the Canadian division, and all of these things… We have been through a lot, but I have enjoyed the last two seasons, in particular, where we have had some normalcy about things.

TJ Brodie on the return of Mark Giordano to the lineup:

He brings the experience and does a little bit of everything out there. He is always looking to jump. He is physical and good defensively. He provides that presence in the room.

Max Domi on supporting Ilya Samsonov as he tries to find his game:

It is a team sport. We are all in this together. He plays the hardest position in our game. It is not easy by any means.

As a forward or a defenseman, you can clean up some turnovers, clean up some stuff in your own zone, block some shots, and help him get his confidence going.

He is an unbelievable goalie, a great guy, and a great teammate. He is going to get through it. We’re looking forward to helping him out.

Domi on the challenge of playing the Blue Jackets three times in roughly two weeks:

You already know what to expect… I don’t want to say it feels like a playoff series because it’s not, but it has the same sort of vibe. You have a real good idea of what the other team is trying to do and their tendencies.

They have a lot of talent and speed up front. If you feed into that, they thrive on it. If you keep them in their own zone, we can capitalize on that.

Vincent on the emergence of Yegor Chinakhov (10 goals, 16 points in 25 games):

This is all coaching (laughs). All coaching with that one.

He is a powerful man. He can shoot the puck. He is a powerful skater who is strong on the puck. His biggest quality — his hockey sense, his brain, his computer. He reads really fast.

He is way more reliable defensively than people think. Because of that, he is creating chances. Now he has more confidence.

He has two linemates (Voronkov and Marchenko) that really good with him. They communicate. They are in sync. They support each other defensively and offensively.

He is developing into a real good player. We can see the confidence growing… He is trending in the right direction, and it is good for us.

Head-to-Head Stats: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets

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

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
#74 Bobby McMann – #64 David Kampf – #18 Noah Gregor

#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 TJ Brodie
#22 Jake McCabe – #2 Simon Benoit
#55 Mark Giordano – #37 Timothy Liljegren

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#31 Martin Jones

Scratched: Conor Timmins, William Lagesson, Pontus Holmberg
Injured: John Klingberg, Joseph Woll, Ryan Reaves

 Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines

#13 Johnny Gaudreau – #11 Adam Fantilli – #17 Justin Danforth
#59 Yegor Chinakhov – #10 Dmitri Voronkov – #86 Kirill Marchenko
#91 Kent Johnson– #4 Cole Sillinger – #52 Emil Bemstrom
#42 Alexandre Texier – #16 Brendan Gaunce – #96 Jack Roslovic

#78 Damon Severson – #55 David Jiricek
#9 Ivan Provorov – #2 Andrew Peeke
#22 Jake Bean – #44 Erik Gudbranson

Starter: #90 Elvis Merzlikins
#40 Daniil Tarasov

Injured/Out: Zach Werenski, Sean Kuraly, Nick Blankenburg, Adam Boqvist, Jack Roslovic, Boone Jenner, Patrik Laine