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Preview: Meeting up with old friends in Denver

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It’s gonna be an emotional one, folks.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs at Colorado Avalanche
Watch on: Hockey Night in Canada at 7PM
Opponent’s site: Mile High Hockey

It’s the second game in the Keefe era, and the first real chance for the Leafs to show off any changes made by their new coach. They’re still in the middle of a road trip, but with some time for practice since Thursday’s game against the Coyotes, tonight will give us a much better idea of what we might expect from Sheldon Keefe’s Toronto Maple Leafs going forward.

Per Mark Masters, the Leafs new powerplay unit of Rielly, Barrie, Nylander, Matthews, and Tavares were practicing together again yesterday. Hopefully we’ll actually get a chance to see what this new unit can do tonight, since the Leafs didn’t manage to draw a single penalty Thursday night. It’s been a minute since we’ve seen two defensemen on a powerplay unit, both on the Leafs and around the league in general, so it’ll be interesting to see how much this might shake up how the Leafs activate on the powerplay (though, to be fair, when he’s at his best Rielly is often a defensemen in name only). Either way, fingers crossed for less point shots to nowhere.

Otherwise, we’ll be looking for some of the things we saw Thursday night to solidify into actual systems (who thought I’d end up getting excited about seeing stretch passes again? Not November-of-2018-me, that’s for sure), and for Barrie, with his first goal as a Leaf finally achieved, to settle into being the defenseman we were excited about at the start of the season. To quote John Tavares, “this is the ******* start of something special”.

Over on the Avalanche, half their team might be dead and/or dying, but Cale Makar is absolutely ridiculous, so that’s kinda making up for it. Not to praise the enemy too much or anything but uh...

...the kid is pretty good. He’s got 25 points so far this season. As a defenseman. In November.

Aside from that, with Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Colin Wilson, Tyson Jost, and Matt Calvert out with injuries, the Avalanche’s lines are pretty depleted right now. Still, the team is currently sitting second in their division, with a record of 13-7-2. Shutting down Nate Mac and friends will be an important factor for the Leafs, since that line, and MacKinnon in particular, is carrying a lot of the Avalanche’s offence right now.

On a more emotional note, this is going to be the first game in his career that Nazem Kadri will play against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the same for Barrie and Kerfoot against the Avalanche.

If anyone offers you a bet about whether or not I’m going to cry, don’t take it.

Maple Leafs Lines

Andreas Johnsson - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev - John Tavares - Zach Hyman
Alexander Kerfoot - Jason Spezza - Kasperi Kapanen
Pierre Engvall - Nick Shore - Frederik Gauthier

Morgan Rielly - Cody Ceci
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Travis Dermott - Tyson Barrie

Frederik Andersen
Kasimir Kaskisuo

Colorado Avalanche Lines

Andre Burakovsky - Nathan MacKinnon - Joonas Donskoi
Tyson Jost - Nazem Kadri - JT Compher
Matthew Nieto - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Valeri Nichushkin
Logan O’Connor - Vladislav Kamenev - T.J. Tynan

Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ryan Graves - Cale Makar
Nikita Zadorov - Ian Cole

Philipp Grubauer
Pavel Francouz

Reporters have spent a lot of time the last couple of days talking about the mood shift of the team, though how much of that is due to the coaching change, and how much is due to them flying out Mitch Marner, is tough to say. Either way, here’s hoping it leads to some wicked goals and a much-needed mark in the win column.

Go Leafs go!