The Maple Leafs close out the regular season in Tampa on a night when big individual milestones for Auston Matthews and Nikita Kucherov are at stake, but nothing else. Just stay healthy. (7:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

Game Day Quotes

Jon Cooper on the level of intensity he is anticipating for this matchup given the lack of stakes and the emphasis on staying healthy: 

I have coached in a few of these, and they are tough to predict. Some have been nailbiters. For some, no one touches each other out there.

I am not sure what is going to happen other than the fact that there are probably two storylines everyone is looking for. Some TV networks have picked this game up because of the anticipation of something happening (laughs). On a night when there is not a ton going on, this is one that will probably have a lot of eyes on it.

Cooper on whether he is going to coach any differently to help Nikita Kucherov reach 100 assists:

If we were going to coach differently, Sheldon and I would both pull our goalie in the first five minutes and make it 6-on-5. Stats don’t go against them. Get them over with. In the end, would anyone really remember that? Probably not.

It does make for great TV. Clearly, I am pulling for #86 to get his 100th assist. What a remarkable accomplishment that would be. You look at the other side, and for #34 to get 70 and to say you were in the building, as a fan, it would be super cool to see.

The problem is I am the coach of the other team. We have to find a way to prevent that. He has done it 69 times against a whole bunch of other teams trying to prevent it. It is hard to do. We will see what happens.

Sheldon Keefe on the decision to play Auston Matthews in a meaningless game #82:

We have 12 forwards, so it wasn’t much of a discussion, quite honestly. There were brief discussions about 11 and 7, but to me, the 70 goals aside, Auston is feeling good and playing good. If we had more guys to sit and rest, he probably wouldn’t be at the top of the list for me, quite honestly. It was not much of a discussion there.

I like that we are able to give some of our defensemen some rest. Those guys are banged up, and they’re important. They’ve taken on a lot for us this season. We get to use the depth we have on the backend there.

Keefe on the meaninglessness of the game:

It is a tricky one on both sides. You need to play the games. It is an 82-game schedule. You want to get through it with good habits and good detail. But, of course, health is the most important thing. But it is on the schedule, and you have to play the games.

That is really it. We want to feel good about our game coming out of it. The reality is, whether we feel good about it or not, we are going to wash it, move on, and be ready for Saturday.

Keefe on the state of the team’s game going into the playoffs:

I feel good about it. We have played a lot of good hockey in the last couple of months. It hasn’t been perfect. There are times and things we haven’t liked for sure, but how much of it is our team game? How much of it is the nature of the fact that, in essence, we have not been playing for very much in the last little while?

If you look around the league, there are a lot of situations where teams are just biding their time to get through the regular season.

I have seen a lot of good things from our team. I look at our first period on the road last night against a really good team that did have something to play for. Of course, we weren’t able to sustain and hold it all the way through, but to me, when we have really needed to call on it, I have really liked how our group has played. That gives us confidence going in.

Keefe on managing the minutes for tonight:

I do have an idea, but we will play the game. Our guys who don’t play as much will certainly play more tonight, so we will manage it that way.

We have to see how the flow of the game goes. In some cases, as a coach, a lot of the questions come, and the focus is on the minutes. You don’t necessarily control the minutes and seconds. You control the shifts. The game itself kind of works out the flow of the minutes and where they land with special teams and whatnot.

Last night, there were a ton of special teams. There was a lot to manage there in terms of the minutes. There were long periods of time with guys sitting, which is never a good thing.

We will see what the game brings. Hopefully, it has some good flow, and we can get out of here quickly.

Cooper on how wide open the playoffs are in the Eastern Conference: 

Remember 2019? It was pretty set for us to go all the way. We were out in six days. It is hard for me to answer those questions when it is anybody’s game.

When you are in a league with 32 teams, it is tough to win. When you chop that in half and get the top 16, it is the best of the best. The margin of victory and defeat is so fine.

You just need things to go your way and you need to stay healthy. These are tough ones to predict. You never know. That is what makes these playoffs so amazing.

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

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

Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines

#59 Tyler Bertuzzi – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#23 Matthew Knies – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#89 Nick Robertson – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #18 Noah Gregor
#24 Connor Dewar – #64 David Kampf – #75 Ryan Reaves

#78 TJ Brodie – #46 Ilya Lyubushkin
#2 Simon Benoit – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#55 Mark Giordano – #25 Conor Timmins

Starter: #30 Martin Jones
#60 Joseph Woll

Scratched/Resting: Ilya Samsonov, Joel Edmundson, Jake McCabe, Morgan Rielly
Injured: Max Domi, Bobby McMann, Calle Jarnkrok

Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines

#10 Anthony Duclair – #21 Brayden Point – #86 Nikita Kucherov
#38 Brandon Hagel – #91 Steven Stamkos
#23 Michael Eyssimont – #20 Nicholas Paul – #41 Mitchell Chaffee
#84 Tanner Jeannot – #11 Luke Glendening – #73 Conor Sheary

#78 Emil Lilleberg – #43 Darren Raddysh
#48 Nick Perbix – #81 Erik Cernak
#44 Calvin deHaan – #24 Matt Dumba

Starter: #90 Matt Tomkins
#88 Andrei Vasilevskiy

Injured/Out:  Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, Tyler Motte, Jonas Johansson, Anthony Cirelli