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Preview: Maple Leafs visit the Florida Panthers

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The Leafs hit up the sunshine state for a rare Sunday night game.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Toronto Maple Leafs Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Florida Panthers 7:00 p.m.
Watch on: Sportsnet
Opponent’s site: Litter Box Cats

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in Florida and facing the Florida Panthers in the first of four matchups this season. After having a nice restful Saturday on the beach, the team is now gearing up for a rare Sunday game.

Games against divisional rivals are always more important, and this is especially true for the Panthers, who are sitting three points behind the Leafs in the standings, juuuust barely out of a wild card spot. Joel Quenneville was quoted as saying tonight’s matchup is the Panthers’ biggest game to date yesterday, so they are definitely going to be playing like they mean it. As for the Leafs, while we’ve certainly managed a great comeback in the standings since the coaching change, we’re not too far removed from a wild card spot ourselves, and if Florida starts winning more games that could be a real issue for our spot in the standings.

Much like the Leafs, the Panthers have been strong offensively, sitting fifth in the league for goals for. Jonathan Huberdeau in particular is currently on a streak, with five goals and nine assists over his last ten games – putting him seventh in the league for points. Evgenii Dadonov meanwhile leads the team in goals, with 19 scored – the same as noted Leafs sniper, William Nylander. Over on the Leafs, Mitch Marner is on a six-game point streak while Auston Matthews is still sitting second in the league with 31 goals.

With all that offence in mind, goaltending is going to play an important part in this game, though it is still TBD which goalie the Leafs will be facing. Sergei Bobrovsky is rocking a .896 over 34 games this season and while Chris Driedger’s numbers are certainly better (.935), he has only played seven games this season. Either way, I would feel pretty good about the Leafs chances of scoring a decent number of goals tonight. Andersen on the other hand has been looking a bit more like October-Freddie than is usual for him this time of year – though he did come in absolute clutch in OT against the Jets on Wednesday night. And for what it’s worth, he has a career .923 against the Panthers (Bobrovsky’s career save percentage against the Leafs is identical, but let’s not linger on that).

Other things that are still TBD: whether or not we might see Andreas Johnsson back in the lineup tonight. He and Timashov were practicing in the same spot yesterday, so it does seem like a possibility, though my money would be on him missing tonight’s game as well.

Maple Leafs Lines

(based on yesterday’s practice)

Alexander Kerfoot - John Tavares - William Nylander
Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitchell Marner
Pierre Engvall - Jason Spezza - Kasperi Kapanen
Dmytro Timashov - Adam Brooks - Frederik Gauthier

Morgan Rielly - Tyson Barrie
Martin Marincin - Cody Ceci
Travis Dermott - Justin Holl

Frederik Andersen
Michael Hutchinson

Florida Panthers Lines

Via the Daily Faceoff

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov
Brett Connolly - Vincent Trocheck - Noel Acciari
Frank Vatrano - Dominic Toninato - Mike Hoffman
Jayce Hawryluk - Brian Boyle - Colton Sceviour

Mike Matheson - Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman - Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle - Josh Brown

Sergei Bobrovsky
Chris Driedger