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Leafs in LA: Impatiently waiting for players to get healthy

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Keefe can’t seem to wait to play Rielly, Ceci, and Mikheyev again.

NHL: NOV 05 Kings at Maple Leafs
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 05: Toronto Maple Leafs Left Wing Ilya Mikheyev (65) steals the puck away from Los Angeles Kings Defenceman Alec Martinez (27) during the second period of the NHL regular season game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 5, 2019, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON, Canada.
Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Game 68: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Los Angeles Kings

Arena: Staples Center — Los Angeles, California
Time: 10:30 PM EST
Channel: Sportsnet Ontario

First of all, I’m mad at myself for not taking the preview for game 69. But I guess 68 will do.

The Leafs brought along three injured players with them during their California road trip. On top of the positives on the personal side for bringing them along, it’s allowed Keefe to get some valuable practice time as he’s tried to ease in Ilya Mikheyev, Morgan Rielly, and Cody Ceci. This is especially good for Mikheyev and Rielly who’ve been out since December and January.

During practice in LA yesterday, head coach Sheldon Keefe had Mikheyev skating on the left side of the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. Clearly that’s where he’s going to fit in once healthy, and it couldn’t come sooner. Keefe has tried all sorts of options for who his sixth forward will be this season and all of his solutions either don’t work or completely neuter the bottom six.

Mikheyev is the obvious candidate to come back and he can’t come soon enough. It’s likely Alex Kerfoot will play on the second line tonight, like he did against San Jose, but who knows, I haven’t missed the fact that Kyle Clifford is slowing making his way up the depth chart as Pierre Engvall has slipped to the fourth line.

On defense, Keefe has been trying a rotation of Calle Rosen, Timothy Liljegren, and Rasmus Sandin. Liljegren got the scratches last week. Sandin had one on Tuesday against San Jose, and now it’s Rosen’s turn as the Leafs are going to go with Sandin-Liljegren as their third pair in LA.

Rielly and Ceci have been skating as the fourth pair with the main group and it’s anticipated they’ll either jump right into top-pair duties together, or get split up between Justin Holl and Tyson Barrie. Once that happens, it’ll likely mean the end for Martin Marincin in the every-day lineup and one of the three defenders rotating on the third pair.

Frederik Andersen the confirmed starter for tonight. Jack Campbell will miss playing against his former team and will instead get the SEGABABA against the Anaheim Ducks.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Lines from practice

Forwards

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

Defense

Travis Dermott - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren
Martin Marincin - Tyson Barrie
Morgan Rielly* - Cody Ceci*

Goalies

Frederik Andersen - confirmed starter
Jack Campbell

*injured and not scheduled to play, assume Malgin for Spezza, Spezza for Kerfoot and Kerfoot for Mikheyev

Los Angeles Kings

Lines from their last game

Forwards
Alex Iafallo - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Adrian Kempe - Gabriel Vilardi - Martin Frk
Trevor Moore - Blake Lizotte - Trevor Lewis
Nikolai Prokhorkin - Michael Amadio - Austin Wagner
Scratched: Tim Schaller
Injured: Jeff Carter

Defense
Ben Hutton - Drew Doughty
Michael Anderson - Matt Roy
Kurtis MacDermid - Sean Walker
Scratched: Joakim Ryan

Goalies
Jonathan Quick
Cal Petersen