Auston Matthews pursues goal #50 of the season in his home state as the Maple Leafs look to reverse an ugly trend of four consecutive losses against Karel Vejmelka and the Coyotes tonight at the Mullett Arena (10:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet Ontario).

Game Day Quotes

Morgan Rielly on the team’s play during his five-game suspension:

They are playing great hockey, which is great. It just makes you want to get back on the ice with them and help out. I am looking forward to doing that.

The team has been playing outstanding in the last four games. It is important that when I come back (vs. Vegas), I am able to slide in, play well, help the team, and put this all behind us.

Arizona native Matthew Knies on Auston Matthews’ opportunity to score his 50th of this season in his home state and what Matthews means to the Arizona hockey community:

It would be pretty cool to watch, right? Everyone is excited to see that in his hometown. I am super pumped for him, and I am going to try to feed him the puck as much as possible tonight.

He means everything (to Arizona hockey). When I was growing up, he was someone to look up to… I was looking at him in awe all of the time. He was the superstar coming from Arizona. It was pretty incredible to watch at a young age.

He is a big inspiration to a lot of kids. I am sure he is a big reason why a lot of kids have picked up a hockey stick.

He is [instrumental] to Arizona hockey, and he means a lot to this community.

Knies on lining up against former University of Minnesota teammate Logan Cooley:

It is going to be hard. He skates so well and is a challenging player to defend. I am excited to play against him. I think it is going to be the first time we’ve ever played against each other.

We were talking a little bit of smack back and forth. I am excited about it.

Auston Matthews on whether his friends and family in the audience will be as numerous as Knies’ projection of 50-60:

Not that large. Maybe 20-25. It is always special to come back home and play in front of friends and family where you grew up. It is always a cool moment.

My parents and immediate family are always super excited. I have some young cousins who have grown up a little bit now and have gotten into hockey over the last couple of years. They are excited, too.

It is cool to be able to have them here and play in front of them.

Matthews on the opportunity to score #50 of the season in his home state:

It would be great. It would be cool.

I am going to go out there and continue to try to execute and play my game, but we just want to keep it rolling as a team. These guys have kind of had our number over the last couple of years. We want to keep this momentum going.

They are going to be desperate tonight for a win. We have to make sure we are ready from the puck drop.

Matthews on Knies’ comment that Matthews is a role model for young players in Arizona:

It means a lot. It is in a great situation now where a new wave of kids are coming from Arizona who are playing at a high level. Maybe [Knies] doesn’t realize it yet, but a lot of kids absolutely look up to him and follow him now being from here.

It is something I take a lot of pride in, being from where I am and trying to be a role model for kids coming out of Arizona who have that hope and belief that no matter where you play or where you are from, if you have a dream and stick to it, it is something you can accomplish.

Sheldon Keefe on whether the high number of Arizona connections in the organization (Matthews, Knies, Treliving, and Keefe himself) injects more energy into this matchup:

It does. It hasn’t really manifested in positive things on the ice in the past, but certainly, it is great to be here.

For myself, I have personal connections here and there are a number of others in the organization that have much deeper connections. It is beautiful here. It was a great day yesterday. The sun is shining.

Even coming into this building, it is a nice change. It is different. It is unique to the NHL, but it is also a terrific building. They did an unbelievable job putting this together.

Keefe on the team’s recent struggles against the Coyotes (four losses in a row):

Some of it you can’t quite figure. On home ice, I think the Leafs have had a really, really difficult time against the Coyotes, and that goes back more than a decade.

In my time in the league, like any other team in the league, it is a good team. They have good players. They play with lots of skill. We played them in here last year, and they worked as hard or were as competitive, skilled, and structured as any team we played. They came out, and you are not ready for that. It catches you off guard.

I know they are going through a tough stretch right now, but in a number of these games, they have been in them or tied after the second or leading in the third. The game has just gotten away from them.

If you aren’t ready to play, then like every other team in the NHL, they can make you look bad. Especially with this team — the style and types of players that they have — they are so skilled and make so many plays with the puck through the neutral zone and in the offensive zone. If you are not great defensively or don’t take care of the puck, they have it a lot and you are going to be chasing them around.

It is about us getting our game established quickly.

Keefe on the keys to solving Coyotes goaltender Karel Vejmelka (3-0-0, .943 save percentage lifetime vs. Toronto):

It is like any other goalie on any other team. When the puck is not going in for you, you have to stay with it with the things that you know lead to goals. You have to generate chances first, so you have to get to the goalie and make it hard on him with how you are shooting the puck, how you are moving it, and all of those kinds of things.

Really, you focus on the different things you need to do to get to the goalie first, which is the greater challenge.

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

In the season-to-date statistics, the Leafs hold the advantage over the Coyotes in five 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  – #11 Max Domi – #88 William Nylander
#74 Bobby McMann – #91 John Tavares – #89 Nick Robertson
#29 Pontus Holmberg – #64 David Kampf – #18 Noah Gregor

#78 TJ Brodie – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#2 Simon Benoit – #22 Jake McCabe
#83 Marshall Rifai – #48 Max Lajoie

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#31 Martin Jones

Suspended: Morgan Rielly
Scratched: Ryan Reaves
Injured/Out: William Lagesson, Calle Jarnkrok, Joseph Woll, Conor Timmins, Mark Giordano

Arizona Coyotes Projected Lines

#9 Clayton Keller – #92 Logan Cooley – #11 Dylan Guenther
#63 Mattias Maccelli – #17 Nick Bjugstad – #67 Lawson Crouse
#15 Alex Kerfoot – #29 Barrett Hayton – #8 Nick Schmaltz
#53 Michael Carcone – #22 Jack McBain – #16 Jason Zucker

#90 JJ Moser – #24 Mathew Dumba
#50 Sean Durzi – #5 Michael Kesselring
#4 Juuso Valimaki – #3 Josh Brown

Starter: #70 Karel Vejmelka
Matt Villalta

Injured/Out: Troy Stecher, Connor Ingram, Travis Boyd