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Maple Leafs face the Flames without Matthews (or Nylander)

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Tonight we get to see a glimpse of Mike Babcock’s view of the Leafs depth chart.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Calgary Flames

Time: 7:00 EST

Location: You were richer than you thought until you bought tickets for the Leafs Arena, Toronto

Broadcast/Streaming: SN1 (update: no blackout tonight)

Opponent SBNation Site: Matchsticks and Gasoline

Auston Matthews is injured. We all panicked after it happened last game, but also dialed it back in the sober light of morning on learning that, while he was out for tonight’s game, there’s was no immediate indication this was a real long term injury.

All that changed this morning with one Tweet from Maple Leafs PR (followed up by every Toronto sportswriter Tweeting it out like they heard it first) that Matthews would not be back for “four weeks”.

Of course, these is still an imprecise time line. We’ve seen players come back early, and others come back late many times.

In the meantime, we have some lineup changes to sort out. Here’s what we think as of right now will be the lines for tonight, which could be shuffled again based on what happens in this game.

Maple Leafs

(to be updated after morning skate if necessary)

Forward Lines (based on yesterday’s practice)

Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Kasperi Kapanen
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Mitchell Marner
Andreas Johnsson - Par Lindholm - Connor Brown
Tyler Ennis - Frederik Gauthier - Josh Leivo

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Martin Marincin - Igor Ozhiganov

Goaltenders (starter still to be confirmed)

Frederik Andersen
Garret Sparks

Calgary Flames

(based on previous game)

Forward Lines

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Sam Bennett
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Austin Czarnik
Dillon Dube - Elias Lindholm - Real Deal James Neal
Garnet Hathaway - Derek Ryan - Michael Frolik

Defence Pairings

Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Rasmus Andersson - Juuso Valimaki

Goaltenders

Mike Smith
David Rittich

Game Notes

The Flames have the some offensive dynamos we know form last season: Gaudreau, Monahan, and Tkachuk (Scottsdale, AZ will still represent on the home ice tonight!)

Goaltending has been the issue causing their 5-5-1 record, leaving them sitting fifth in their division. The Flames acquired Mike Smith from the Coyotes in the off-season of 2017. He’s now in the final year of his $5.67M AAV contract, turning 37 years-old later this season, and off to a very rocky start. With eight games played so far he has a 5 vs. 5 sv% of only 0.881 so far this season. Across the whole league there are a handful of recognisable names below that sv%, though none of those goalies have played the number of games or minutes Smith has, with the notable exception of Jake Allen on the Blues. Andersen is looking down at that from his perch at 0.926 sv%.

We are truly sailing into the unknown tonight. While the Leafs have been without Matthews before, there was also James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak near the top, oh, and one William Nylander. This is going to be a wonky game with only the defence having some stability, though even there Dermott is still out sick.

The Leafs still have something to celebrate tonight. It will be Kadri’s 500th NHL game. Rielly will also hit the 400 game mark. Though I hope that isn’t some kind of jinx on them.

The Leafs and Flames play only twice per season and they are certainly not well acquainted with each other given all the roster changes. The first time they played last season they won 4-1 with the goals scored by Polak, Zaitsev, Kadri, and Komarov, which has to be the most unlikely group to score four goals in any one game I have ever seen in recent times. Polak’s ‘goal’ was particularly ridiculous.

The Leafs followed that up with a game a few days later which they won 2-1 in a shootout. Who scored the shootout goals? Matthews and Nylander.

Is it a bad omen that both players who won that shootout are out of the lineup tonight? I leave it for you to decide.


The Flames have put the lines through a blender:

Leafs lines as expected with Andersen to start.