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Toronto Maple Leafs vs New Jersey Devils game preview: The Leafs are back but Auston Matthews isn’t

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Hey yeah, hey yeah, the Leafs are back. Most of them, anyway.

Martin Brodeur/Darcy Tucker/Ken Daneyko
This is from the most recent Leafs game. It’s been a while since they played.

It’s Toronto Maple Leafs game day! Something we haven’t seen since Saturday when the Leafs beat the Boston Bruins for the second time in two nights. It feels so long ago. The opponent for tonight, the New Jersey Devils, have also been on a bit of a break, not playing since Sunday night when they made a huge comeback to beat the Chicago Blackhawks after being down 5-2 in the third period. Two well rested teams meeting to kick things off and get back to work. It should be a good game.

New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs
7:00PM - Air Canada Centre
TV: TSN4, MSG, NHL Live
(with blackouts unless you’re in, say, Argentina wink wink)
Radio: TSN1050
Go taunt some Devils fans at: ‘Stop calling us In Lou We Trust

The Maple Leafs and Devils previously met this season in the fourth game, ending the Leafs’ three game winning streak to start the season. Here are some excerpts from that recap:

A horrific giveaway by Damon Severson behind is net gives Marner a lot of time and space in front of the net. Also not a good idea, and he nearly capitalizes himself, before feeding it to Bozak, whose shot is blocked.

The Devils almost get it back immediately! A neutral zone scramble leads to an odd man rush for them, and the combination of Hischier and Hall almost pots one by Andersen.

Gardiner, to my eye, has not looked good tonight, and he takes an obstruction penalty after losing body position. Another chance for New Jersey to take the lead.

Another slashing penalty, this time for JVR. Please stop taking penalties, guys.

The Leafs need to step it up here. The Devils are theoretically weaker than them, but they’re not in this game by accident - they’re outplaying Toronto.

Are you fucking kidding me. The Devils somehow score. Jake again has a terrible time dealing with the puck at the line, and New Jersey takes advantage. 4-2 Devils.

The Leafs weren’t gonna go undefeated, and the Devils have been good enough to win this game. But this has exposed the same weaknesses we’ve seen for a while. Shaky defending with goaltending that isn’t always enough to cover for it.

Yeah it wasn’t a great game. BUT! Things are different now. We’ve replaced Calle Rosen with Andreas Borgman! But seriously, there’s been a lot going on in Leafs land since the last game.

  • Auston Matthews was back on the ice for morning skate, and it was looking like we’d have him back for the first time in three games.
  • The Leafs have gone 3-0 without Matthews, but haven’t played like a 3-0 team.
  • Frederik Gauthier was sent down to the Marlies after taking Josh Leivo’s spot in the press box for a bit.
  • Nikita Soshnikov is up in the NHL. Sosh has 12 points in 14 games with the Marlies and he’s recalled to avoid a clause in his contract that would have given him the option to return to the KHL, rather than stay in the AHL.
  • Many players have taken advantage of this time off to recuperate. Most practices and skates have been optional. Hopefully, this gives us a fresh team like the one that beat the Jets* 7-2.

What’s been going on in New Jersey? Well...I don’t know. I forget this team exists half the time. Let’s see what I can dig up:

  • Mirco Mueller broke his collarbone and is out indefinitely. I’ve done that, it’s no fun.
  • The Binghamton Devils are bad.
  • Taylor Hall is good.
  • The Devils reassigned Michael McLeod to the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
  • Brian Boyle, Maple Leafs of three months, will play at the ACC for the first time since picking red over blue.
  • Travis Zajac might make his return to the lineup tonight.

Great. Now we know our enemy. Let’s see their numbers.

Numbers Preview

Maple Leafs Team Devils
Maple Leafs Team Devils
265GF - 226GA - +29 Goal Differential 238GF - 234GA - +4
24.4% - 2nd overall Power Play 21.7 - 10th overall
81.3% - 12th overall Penalty Kill 81.9% - 7th overall
James van Riemsdyk - 36 Most Goals Taylor Hall - 39
Mitch Marner - 47 Most Assists Taylor Hall - 54
Mitch Marner - 69 Most Points Taylor Hall - 93
Matt Martin - 50 Most PM Miles Wood - 84
Jake Gardiner - 22:33/G TOI Leader Sami Vatanen - 22:42
Frederik Andersen - .917sv% Starting Goalie Keith Kincaid - .911sv%

Here are your potential lines for tonight:

Toronto Maple Leafs

Guessing based on the last game.

Forwards

Leo Komarov - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander

Zach Hyman - Patrick Marleau - Connor Brown

James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner

Matt Martin - Dominic Moore - Nikita Soshnikov

Defence

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey

Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev

Andreas Borgman - Connor Carrick

Goalies

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

New Jersey Devils

From Leftwinglock, assuming Zajac is in.

Forwards

Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Kyle Palmieri

Jesper Bratt - Travis Zajac - Drew Stafford

Adam Henrique - Brian Boyle - Miles Wood

Brian Gibbons - Blake Coleman - Stefan Noesen

Defence

Andy Greene - Steven Santini

John Moore - Damon Severson

Will Butcher - Ben Lovejoy

Goalies

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid


Skate today was optional, and the drama was non-stop!

Sigh. One more game without Matthews. Interesting that Soshnikov immediately draws in over Josh Leivo.

The game’s at seven, the GDT will be up at 6:30.

Go Leafs Go!