The Maple Leafs host the Florida Panthers in a potential round one playoff preview (7:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

Unfortunately, we won’t get to see the Leafs‘ full lineup/complement of top players for this marquee matchup — Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner remain out along with Calle Jarnkrok, Joel Edmundson, and Timothy Liljegren — but it does mean this is a big opportunity for the likes of Simon Benoit, Pontus Holmberg, Conor Timmins, and Nick Robertson to show their worth and make their case for playoff lineup spots against an upper-echelon opponent. And, of course, any hope of the Leafs chasing down home-ice advantage hinges on a good result tonight.

There are no expected lineup changes for Toronto from their win in Buffalo. Ilya Samsonov, who posted a shutout against the Sabres on Saturday, is between the pipes with another chance to tighten his grip on the starting job for the first game of the postseason.

The Leafs are going to have to make a quick adjustment coming off of a week of non-playoff/playoff bubble opposition. The Panthers’ backbone is their stout defensive play, physicality, suffocating pressure over three zones, and strong goaltending (fourth in Expected Goals Against at even strength).

Game Day Quotes

Sheldon Keefe on whether he thinks the emotions of what happened last spring will carry over tonight: 

 It is less about what happened in the spring. We have a lot of different people here. It is more that it is just a really good team. It is a divisional team, a team that plays you hard, and a team that doesn’t give you an inch. The game is very competitive in nature because of the style of play.

It couldn’t be more polar opposite than the types of games or styles of games that we played last week. It is going to be a different feel. We have to be ready for it.

Ryan Reaves on tonight’s matchup: 

I’m expecting a fun one. It’s a pretty direct team that likes to play physical and obviously a team that beat this team last year in the playoffs. It’s going be physical, it’s going be direct, it’s going be high intensity, it’s going to feel like a playoff game, and it’s a potential playoff matchup. I think it’s going be everything you would expect.

Jake McCabe on Florida’s defensive prowess: 

They’re really structured defensively. They play really hard. They’re competitive and they make it hard on you in all three zones of the ice. They play a really direct game and put lots of stress on your net. You have to be strong in front of your net and be good with the puck and don’t give them any freebies. We’ve got to try to get in on the forecheck and spend some time in their end.

Ryan Reaves on whether 70 goals is still possible for Auston Matthews: 

80 is possible for that guy.

Paul Maurice on how he plans to defend Auston Matthews: 

Well, man, what game is it? 74? He’s got 60 goals, so nobody’s figured that out. I’m not the smartest guy in the league. I’m just going to put a bunch of guys out and hope they can defend the hell out of it, if we can. You are not stopping him. You just hope he scores the next night, not the night you’re in town.

Brilliant, brilliant player. In that elite category of players around the league that you don’t stop. He is going to get his. You hope your goalie has a good night. You hope the posts are a little thinner at their end than ours, and you play hard.

Maurice on the meeting with Toronto after a long break from each other:

I think both teams are just trying to dial it in now and get as close to their game as they possibly can.

It is weird not seeing a team in your own division for four months, so it is maybe a reintroduction of games. Both teams have added players and changed the way they look a little bit. Both teams are still driven by the best players on the team.

We’ll just kind of get out there and get to know each other again tonight.

Maurice on the fact that this is a potential playoff matchup in round one:

We have a certain style of hockey that we play, and they have [theirs]. We are both going to play it tonight. If we see each other in two weeks, no one is going to remember this game. We are going to play hard, and they are going to play hard.

It is game 74-ish. Both teams have had strong enough years that they have to play eight more games until the playoffs. Everyone wants to feel good, but everyone wants to get to the playoffs pretty hard.

The difference between us and Boston and maybe even Tampa in the standings is probably based on the schedule and luck on injuries. We are all in the same pool of teams.

What is important for us is that we feel like in our last five games, we are coming back to our game. You can’t play it all year. We were really consistent with it, and then we had a couple of weeks where we wobbled a little bit. We were inconsistent. It is not in wins and losses. It is in style of play.

The rush game opened up. That is not how we look. In the last five, even with injuries, I think we are coming back to it. That is the key for us: to look the way we are supposed to look.

Maurice on whether this game sets the tone for a potential playoff matchup:

I truly don’t think that it matters. I am not a huge believer in momentum or in regular-season success. I have been in playoff series against teams we didn’t beat all year, and we beat them in the playoffs. The opposite is true, too.

I am not trying to lower the importance of this game. I also have an understanding that things are occasionally made bigger than they are [in Toronto].

I don’t think it matters. It didn’t matter between game three and four in the series last year… Teams have come back from three down in a playoff series. How does that happen? Momentum doesn’t matter.

I am going to bet that both teams are excited about the game tonight. I thought the best game we have played in the last couple of weeks was the Boston game. It was a hell of a game. Shots were 21-21, and there wasn’t a boring 30 seconds in the night, at least from the bench.

I think we are going to see that kind of energy from both teams. It is a good game to watch.

Head-to-Head Stats: Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #34 Auston Matthews – #11 Max Domi
#74 Bobby McMann – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#23 Matthew Knies – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #89 Nick Robertson
#24 Connor Dewar – #64 David Kampf – #75 Ryan Reaves

#2 Simon Benoit – #22 Jake McCabe
#78 T.J Brodie – #46 Ilya Lyubushkin
#55 Mark Giordano – #25 Conor Timmins

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#60 Joseph Woll

Scratched: Marshall Rifai, Noah Gregor
Injured: Calle Jarnkrok, Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, Timothy Liljegren, Joel Edmundson

Florida Panthers Projected Lines

#23 Carter Verhaeghe – #16 Aleksander Barkov – #13 Sam Reinhart
#21 Nick Cousins – #9 Sam Bennett – #19 Matthew Tkachuk
#27 Eetu Luostarinen – #15 Anton Lundell – #10 Vladimir Tarasenko
#17 Evan Rodrigues – #82 Kevin Stenlund – #18 Steven Lorentz

#42 Gustav Forsling – #5 Aaron Ekblad
#77 Niko Mikkola – #62 Brandon Montour
#91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson – #7 Dmitry Kulikov

Starter: #72 Sergei Bobrovsky
#41 Anthony Stolarz

Injured/Out: Jonah Gadjovich