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Game Preview: Leafs start another back to back against Blue Jackets

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Matthews and Marner appear to be back together.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Columbus Blue Jackets
Mitch Marner hugs Auston Matthews
Credit: Getty

Columbus Blue Jackets @ Toronto Maple Leafs: 7:00pm

Watch on: Sportsnet

Opponent’s site: Jackets Cannon

The 5-3-1 Maple Leafs will face the Blue Jackets for the second time this season. The two teams played on the front half of a back-to-back and the Leafs came away with a 4-1 win on the road. Mitchell Marner scored twice and Freddy Andersen recorded the win.

Maple Leafs Lines

Last time out, the Leafs beat the Boston Bruins without their best centre in John Tavares. It was a nail-biter, especially when Andreas Johnsson blocked a shot and didn’t return to the game, but the Leafs won the game and the birds sang once more.

The Leafs confirmed today that Johnsson will play, even though he skipped practice yesterday:

Lineup wise, Mike Babcock got very creative with how he deployed his forwards. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner played most of the night together, but William Nylander also got some looks on the top unit when the opportunity to score was high (offensive zone, weak matchup). Beyond the stars, Alex Kerfoot had a wail of a game, scoring and performing as a very good second liner centre. Dmytro Timashov got his first NHL goal and Trevor Moore spent half the game on the first line.

Tonight will be another look into how strong the Leafs depth is, with a focus on how the team is going to deploy their lines. Will they be more balanced? Will Babcock go for the hard matchup again? What will the Leafs learn heading into Boston on the road on the second night of a back to back?

It’s not yet certain which form of top six will be used, or if the line blender will be out.

These two points tonight are all that matter at the moment, but considering who’s on the schedule tomorrow, they’re especially key.

Forwards

From the most recent game
Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev - Alexander Kerfoot - William Nylander
Trevor Moore - Jason Spezza - Kasperi Kapanen
Dmytro Timashov - Nick Shore - Frederik Gauthier
Scratched: Nic Petan
Injured: Zach Hyman

From the most recent practice:

Petan (filling in for Johnsson - Matthews - Nylander
Mikheyev - Kerfoot - Marner
Moore - Spezza - Kapanen
Timashov - Shore - Gauthier

Defense

Morgan Rielly - Cody Ceci
Jake Muzzin - Tyson Barrie
Martin Marincin - Justin Holl
Scratched: Kevin Gravel
Injured: Travis Dermott

Goalies

Frederik Andersen
Michael Hutchinson

Blue Jackets Lines

The Jackets are coming off a back-to-back weekend against Chicago and the Islanders that both went to overtime and both ended in a 3-2 loss. Needless to say the Jackets are tired and slightly demoralized.

Head coach John Tortorella has really liked the process at which his team has played all season, but they haven’t been getting the results. The Jackets are third last in the league in team shooting percentage at 5v5.

Our friends at Jackets Cannon wrote about their team’s shooting percentage woes in this article linked below. It’s a good read.

Confirmed starters are Freddy Andersen vs Joonas Korpisalo.

Forwards

Gustav Nyquist - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Alexandre Texier - Boone Jenner - Emil Bemstrom
Sonny Milano - Riley Nash - Jakob Lilja

Defense

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara
Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard

Goalies

Joonas Korpisalo
Elvis Merzlikins

Late lineup changes for the Blue Jackets: