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Preseason Preview Game 4 — Back to Ottawa

This isn’t at all repetitive.

NHL: SEP 29 Preseason - Maple Leafs at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Ottawa Senators

7 p.m. at Canadian Tire Centre, SN
Opponent’s site: Silver Seven Sens

Them

Ottawa has cut quite a few players, and is getting ready to play their real team. Well, real team minus Brady Tkachuk, of course.

Their roster for today is a mystery, as so far all DJ Smith has said is that he’ll rotate his remaining players through the rest of their games. We’ll update you when we know.

Us

The Maple Leafs have made a few cuts of AHL players, and cleared Teemu Kivihalme through waivers, but that’s it so far. They went with some interesting lines at practice on Sunday ahead of the back-to-backs today and tomorrow.

Auston Matthews did a little more in practice, but isn’t ready yet. This is all good news, though, and he seems to be on track for a return at the start of the year.

The roster for tonight’s game:

This group formed up like this on Sunday’s practice:

Noel Hoefenmayer played his junior hockey in Ottawa, so this is a second-home coming for him, but it’s unlikely he’ll play. Engvall should get in his first game of the preseason on one of the three fourth lines this team sports. The top line, which we’re calling the Special K line, looks very like what the Leafs might have as their third line on opening night.

The Game

The Leafs have decided to stress test their depth. I think the roster is now carved in stone, and these last three games are about who goes where to begin. The other group contains most of the likely top six, so this is a contest to see who looks like more than a third liner, but the coach’s mind seems made up on a few things already:

The Leafs have moved from having too few wingers to having too many, and the result is going to be one LW playing too high and one playing too low. The days of people complaining about Zach Hyman ruining the top line of the Leafs are something we can be nostalgic over in mid-January when everyone is having a bad week at the same time. For now, the question is how do you fit everyone in without wasting some valuable player on the fourth line.

The next three games are about answering that question.