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Leafs vs. Sharks Preview: Motivation

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Toronto begins its California road trip tonight.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Game 67: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. San Jose Sharks

Arena: SAP Center, San Jose, California
Time: 10:30 PM EST
Channel: Sportsnet

You really never know what you’re going to get out of the Leafs. They could get owned by the Pittsburgh Penguins and then immediately turn around and clobber those same Penguins next game. They could lose to their own Zamboni driver and then put up a three-game win streak, including a terrific showing in their highest-leverage game of the year. Was Toronto finally embarrassed into playing their best hockey? Was it just random variance? Who knows? But let’s go with the shame theory because that ties into the pregame song.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Forwards

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

Defence

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

Goaltenders

Jack Campbell
Frederik Andersen

In a moderately surprising twist, Rasmus Sandin is getting the night off as Timothy Liljegren draws back in. Sheldon Keefe has indicated he doesn’t want to overtax the young defenders, so that’s the ostensible reason. In related news, Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci are apparently targeting next week for their returns from injury. Jake Muzzin and Ilya Mikheyev are still a bit further away, though the news on the latter has gotten more optimistic lately.

Keefe is ignoring my numerous letters and e-mails about how Alexander Kerfoot makes more sense as 3C than a 2W. Fine! I see how it is. Jack Campbell is your starter.

San Jose Sharks

Forwards

Evander Kane - Logan Couture - Noah Gregor
Timo Meier - Joe Thornton - Kevin Labanc
Marcus Sorensen - Joel Kellman - Dylan Gambrell
Melker Karlsson - Antti Suomela - Stefan Noesen

Defencemen

Radim Simek - Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Mario Ferraro
Brandon Davidson - Tim Heed

Goaltenders

Martin Jones
Aaron Dell

Over the summer, Arvind and I were talking about the San Jose Sharks, and I said whenever the end of the core came in San Jose, it was going to be very ugly. Well, it sure was, I just didn’t expect it this soon. The Sharks have had a hideous season where damn near everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Their aging stars almost all got old at once, injuries struck hard and often, their goaltending has been sieve-like, a coach firing didn’t help, and worst of all, they don’t own their own first-round pick. Ottawa does. The Erik Karlsson trade might turn out pretty well for the Senators after all.

I feel like it’s worth a moment to contemplate how bad the cap situation is in San Jose. Four years from now, Logan Couture will be 34, Evander Kane will be 32, Brent Burns will be 38, Marc-Edouard Vlasic will be 36, Martin Jones will be 34, and Erik Karlsson will be 33. Their combined cap hit in that year—2023-24—will be $42.25M. Yeesh!

The biggest names on IR are Karlsson and Tomas Hertl. Another missing face is our old friend Patrick Marleau, who got flipped to Pittsburgh at the deadline. Grand Old Man Joe Thornton is still there, at least until he joins us over the summer. Thanks to reporter Sheng Peng, we were able to update these lines after publication and confirm the starter will be Jones:

It’s worth remembering: this is the NHL and any team can beat anyone else on a given night. Ask the Penguins, whom the Sharks whomped on Saturday night. And given they don’t have their own first-round pick, there are no meaningful incentives to tank in San Jose this season. Still, it would be a disappointment for Toronto to end the night without gaining two points. Get the job done, guys.

Go Leafs Go!