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Preview: Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers

Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from this one.

NHL: FEB 25 Maple Leafs at Lightning
Our number one defender.
Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers: 7:00 p.m.
Watch on: TSN4, TVAS Fox Sports-Florida

Opponent’s site: Litter box Cats

Kyle Dubas has your analysis on the defence woes:

Maple Leafs Lines

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
William Nylander - John Tavares - Denis Malgin
Pierre Engvall - Alexander Kerfoot - Kasperi Kapanen
Kyle Clifford - Frederik Gauthier - Jason Spezza

Travis Dermott - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Tyson Barrie
Martin Marincin/Calle Rosen - Timothy Liljegren

Frederik Andersen
Jack Campbell

Panthers Lines

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman - Erik Haula - Frank Vatrano
Aleksi Saarela - Lucas Wallmark - Brett Connolly
Colton Sceviour - Noel Acciari - Mark Pysyk

MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman - Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle - Mike Matheson

Sergei Bobrovsky
Sam Montembeault


Sheldon Keefe had Martin Marincin on the third pair on Wednesday’s practice, but he said not to read into that because they woke Calle Rosen up on Tuesday night to get him on a plane to Florida. Rosen was intending to play in Wednesday’s 11:00 a.m. game for the Marlies. He may draw in tonight.

The Leafs currently have no extra forwards on their roster and no recalls to add one from the Marlies unless they drop below 12 healthy forwards and can call it an emergency recall. Teams are limited to four regular recalls after the deadline, and the Leafs have used theirs on Sandin, Liljegren, Engvall and Rosen. (You are allowed to use them on non-Swedes, not sure the Leafs know that.)

In yesterday’s 31 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman had an interesting tidbit about Dubas on deadline day:

Finally, on Toronto: A few teams were wondering what was up when Dubas sent out a note 45 minutes before the deadline looking for a forward. They thought it was weird Dmytro Timashov would be lost on waivers and then the Maple Leafs would be trying to add. (Timashov had asked for a trade weeks ago, and may have asked to be placed on waivers as Sven Baertschi did this year.) Another GM, though, thought Dubas was slyly trying to snare an inexpensive forward at the last second from a team that suddenly had one too many.

I think Dubas might have been slyly trying to upgrade the now-absent Timashov without having to use a recall from the Marlies to do it.

We know who the Leafs are, we saw them play a game against Tampa with almost this roster. And, yes, it just got harder, but the Panthers made themselves a little worse on Monday. They dealt one of the best two-way centres in Vincent Trocheck to the Hurricanes for a decent 3C in Erik Haula and depth forward of merit Lucas Wallmark. Trouble is Haula has to be their 2C. This is exactly the situation the Leafs were in while John Tavares was hurt, and that was rough at times, even though Alexander Kerfoot is a decent player, he’s not a top line centre, and neither is Haula.

The other problem the Panthers have is that their regular, good backup Chris Driedger is just now coming off injury and likely won’t be added for this game. Bobrovsky played Tuesday night in a win for them, and they let Montembeault get thumped by Vegas last Saturday. It seems highly unlikely we’ll see anything but an Andersen-Bobrovsky matchup of the struggling starters.

Everyone and their dog will tell you today that this is a must-win game. They’re wrong, and it’s not. Would it make things easier for the Leafs if they won in regulation and moved four points ahead? You bet. But it doesn’t matter which games you win, only that you win more than the other guy.

Even so, let’s not make this into too much of a learning experience for the Leafs as they try to grow up into a contender. Just win it.