Still missing Mitch Marner, the Maple Leafs return from a five-day break in Philadelphia with a matchup against the Tortorella-less Flyers (7:30 p.m. EST, TSN4).

Coming off of a really busy 25-day stretch in which they played 14 games with little practice opportunity, the Leafs got a chance to reset over the last four days. It looked like a break the team sorely needed after a four-games-in-six-days week featuring two losses against Boston and two hardly convincing wins against Buffalo and Montreal.

One player who might benefit the most from the overdue rest is Auston Matthews. While he scored the three-on-three OT winner against Buffalo, he has hardly looked like his dominant self in the last five games. He hasn’t been generating the same quality of chances, and he hasn’t been getting to the dangerous areas as often. 

It might be more difficult to get the chase for 70 goals back on track with Mitch Marner slated to miss another game due to a lower-body injury, but as we’ve seen at times of injury or illness this season (Bobby McMann’s emergence and balancing out the lines, among other examples), there might be some silver linings to the situation. Data on lines without Matthews and Marner together could always come in handy down the line, especially if they run cold in a playoff situation at five-on-five (which isn’t without precedent). Tonight, William Nylander will slide back down to the second line, and Calle Järnkrok will slot in on Matthews’ wing along with Tyler Bertuzzi.

The rest of the Leafs‘ lineup is expected to remain the same, including the Matthew Knies, David Kampf, and Bobby McMann combination that showed a lot of promise in the secondary matchups against (an admittedly weak) Montreal lineup on Saturday.

On the other side, the Philadelphia Flyers are in the midst of a bizarre week. During a brutal 7-0 loss in Saturday’s game against the Lightning, head coach John Tortorella was ejected and subsequently suspended for two games for abuse of officials. Thursday night’s game will be the second game of that suspension after the Flyers beat the Sharks 3-2 on Tuesday.

The Leafs and Flyers have only played each other once this season, a 4-3 Leafs win in overtime back on February 15 in which Matthews recorded a natural hat-trick in the second period and Nylander scored the overtime winner. Thursday night’s game will be the first of two games in Philadelphia in the next week as the Leafs will also visit the Flyers on Tuesday. We’ll see if the close proximity of the matchups can fuel some bad blood between the sides.

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on Auston Matthews’ goal scoring cooling off recently:

A lot of our guys seemed like they were worn down a little bit with the demands of the schedule, especially once we got past that Buffalo game.

The turnaround in Boston was as miserable of a travel night as we have had all season with some of the challenges that we had. The Gardiner was shut down that night getting to the airport, the weather was bad in Boston, there was customs, and it was 3 a.m. in the morning (when we got in). And we had to prepare for the Boston Bruins. It was a tough stretch. I think that bled into Montreal as well.

Specific to Auston, he had at least two maybe three chances where he is basically in alone on the goalie in Boston. Those didn’t fall for him. Things have fallen a lot for him this season, and they will again, but the historic pace that was on is historic for a reason. It is difficult to maintain. I think this break will be good for him.

Keefe on the Knies – Kampf – McMann trio:

Kampf, for me, has shown in his time here that he can elevate. He can take on more responsibility. We have gone with Domi in the middle of most of the season here. With Kampf as the fourth center, he has played a little bit of a different type of role than what he has played in the past.

We have known and felt that he can take on more and elevate. Right now, Mitch’s absence forces me to rethink some things and look at different things. That is part of why you saw the line as they were the other night.

I like the line. They are three guys who have good size and speed. They are good in possession of the puck. They are on top of people very quickly. They didn’t spend very much time in our zone.

It was our most successful line (in Montreal). Even though the Domi and Tavares line got us two very important goals, I thought our best line offensively was the line of Kampf, McMann, and Knies. That was great to see. You are not necessarily expecting that out of them. You expect hard defensive play and to be able to help us win some territory, but they also got to the net.

Keefe on Calle Jarnkrok joining the top line and top power-play unit in Marner’s absence:

In terms of Jarnkrok’s presence in that group, it is the right shot. Whether it is the breakout, the faceoff, or in the zone even, he plays the same role that Mitch plays on the second unit. He is very familiar in that sense. It gives us another right-handed option on the power play there, which is important.

We tried it with the additional lefty the last time. We didn’t like it as much. Jarnkrok is a guy who, if you give him a plan and tell him what you need from him, he is going to do what he can to make it happen. Really, it is about keeping things moving for the other guys who are normally in that group.

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

In the season-to-date statistics, the Leafs hold the advantage over the Flyers in four out of five offensive categories, but the Flyers hold the advantage in four out of five defensive categories.

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #34 Auston Matthews – #19 Calle Jarnkrok
#11 Max Domi – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#23 Matthew Knies – #64 David Kampf – #74 Bobby McMann
#29 Pontus Holmberg – #24 Connor Dewar – #75 Ryan Reaves

#44 Morgan Rielly – #46 Ilya Lyubushkin
#78 TJ Brodie – #22 Jake McCabe
#20 Joel Edmundson – #37 Timothy Liljegren

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#60 Joseph Woll

Extras: Simon Benoit, Noah Gregor, Martin Jones, Mark Giordano
Injured/Out: Conor Timmins, Mitch Marner

Philadelphia Flyers Projected Lines

#15 Denis Gurianov – #14 Sean Couturier – #11 Travis Konecny
#71 Tyson Foerster – #21 Scott Laughton – #74 Owen Tippett
#19 Garnet Hathaway – #25 Ryan Poehling – #27 Noah Cates
#86 Joel Farabee – #48 Morgan Frost – #10 Bobby Brink

#8 Cam York – #6 Travis Sanheim
#18 Marc Staal – #23 Ronnie Attard
#5 Egor Zamula – #77 Erik Johnson

Starter: #33 Samuel Ersson
#40 Cal Petersen

Injured/Out: Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam Atkinson, Jamie Drysdale, Nick Seeler