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Preview: roster changes ahead of a date on the Island

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Zach is bach.

NHL: OCT 30 Maple Leafs at Islanders Photo by John Crouch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Islanders: 7:00pm

Watch on: Sportsnet, MSG+

Opponent’s site: Lighthouse Hockey

This is the fourth game the Maple Leafs will play against the New York Islanders in the John Tavares era. In the first two games, the Leafs lost by a combined score of 10-1. The Leafs got some revenge when they won the third matchup of the season 2-1. Who’s scared now, eh?

Asterisk on the first two games, as Garret Sparks was in net and he, frankly, was not up to the task. Speaking of backup goalies not up to the enormous task, Michael Hutchinson was sent to the Toronto Marlies yesterday, replaced with AHL starter Kasimir Kaskisuo. Kaskisuo will be in the baseball cap tonight, hoping he doesn’t have to make his NHL debut until his scheduled start on Saturday.

In brighter news, Zach Hyman is back in the Leafs lineup for the first time since the playoffs last season! After healing his ACL injury, he’ll skate alongside Tavares and Kasperi Kapanen. Despite how desperately we need Hyman to come in and help the Leafs forwards, let’s lower our expectations and wait for him to show us that he’s dusted off the rust. It took a few games for Travis Dermott, I don’t expect it to be different for Hyman.

Also back in the Leafs lineup is Nic Petan! After centring the Marlies first line for three games — putting up two goals and seven points, on 10 shots — Petan is back on the Leafs and will be the fourth-line left winger tonight. Despite the perception around his situation, the Leafs are investing in Petan with ice time in the AHL and chances in the NHL when they arise.

Maple Leafs Lines

(From practice, as reported by Kristen Shilton)

Forwards

Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Kasperi Kapanen
Ilya Mikheyev - Alexander Kerfoot - Trevor Moore
Nic Petan - Nick Shore - Nique Frederik Gauthier
Scratched: Jason Spezza, Dmytro Timashov

Defense

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

Goalies

Frederik Andersen
Kasimir Kaskisuo

New York Islanders Lines

(From practice, as reported by Arthur Staple)

Leo Komarov was taken off IR yesterday and is likely to play tonight against the Leafs.

Forwards

Anders Lee - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Derick Brassard
Josh Bailey - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Ross Johnston - Otto Koivula/Leo Komarov - Michael Dal Colle

Defense

Adam Pelech - Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews - Scott Mayfield
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Goalies

Thomas Greiss
Semyon Varlamov


From 31 Thoughts today comes this “one executive told me” story about the Islanders:

One coach told me his team’s internal metrics indicate that no one spends more time in their own zone than the red-hot New York Islanders. He wondered how that was possible, so he took a look. Answer: “They let you go where they want you to go — on the outside.” You get time, but you don’t get quality.

This is a persistent story you will always hear about Barry Trotz’s teams. It’s what Trotz wants his teams to do, and while it’s possible that this coach’s internal metrics are better than what can be gleaned from NHL shot location data, it doesn’t add up. This story that the Washington Capitals were fine allowing heaps of shots because they “keep you to the outside” was true in 2014-2015, but since then, it has gotten less true every year. The Islanders did okay last year, maintaining league average shot pace from all locations in a very low-event style overall, but make no mistake, their strength last year was in net.

This year, they aren’t that good defensively, and while they do push a lot of shots to the points, their net front is open for business. The Leafs just got Lehnered, so the Islanders can’t do that to them. But that doesn’t mean this game is going to be easy since this year’s Islanders tandem has been extremely effective. Boston gets all the press for having a hot tandem, but the Islanders have a pair who do well in their system. So far, anyway.

It looks like Semyon Varlamov will get the start tonight.