Vegas Golden Knights at Toronto Maple Leafs
7:00 PM on TSN4 and AATSN-RM
With Vegas first up on the menu, the Leafs face a tough schedule of teams better than Chicago and Detroit over the next few weeks. This is a very important run of games for a team sitting at a disappointing .500 win percentage today. Vegas is also at a very disappointing to them .500, so neither team has begun the way they expected to. Vegas was widely regarded to be the number one choice to win the Pacific division. And they still are.
The Vegas Golden Knights are missing:
- Max Pacioretty
- Alex Tuch
- Mark Stone
- Nolan Patrick
- Zach Whitecloud
- Mattias Janmark
- William Karlsson
Their projected lineup from Knights on Ice is:
William Carrier — Chandler Stephenson — Peyton Krebs
Jonathan Marchessault — Nicolas Roy — Reilly Smith
Evgenii Dadonov — Michael Amadio — Keegan Kolesar
Brett Howden — Jake Leschyshyn — Jonas Røndbjerg
Nicolas Hague — Alex Pietrangelo
Alec Martinez — Shea Theodore
Brayden McNabb — Dylan Coghlan
Yes, that is the Leafs latest 13th forward stolen on waivers by another team on their third line. He, like Adam Brooks, is moving into a bigger role on this team than the Leafs would have for him, so expect him to have a lot to prove.
The Knights first line is mostly their usual fourth line, and while they have one of the best fourth lines in hockey, that should be a stretch for that group. Meanwhile their actual fourth line has a combined 14 games of NHL experience.
No changes seem to be in store for the Leafs at this point, so Justin Holl will likely be the scratch on defence, and they are currently not carrying an extra forward. The projected lineup is:
Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Alexander Kerfoot - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Pierre Engvall - David Kämpf - Ondřej Kaše
Nick Ritchie - Jason Spezza - Wayne Simmonds
Morgan Rielly - Travis Dermott
Jake Muzzin - T.J. Brodie
Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren
Jack Campbell - likely starter
Game 10 of the season is about when a team has to stop blaming poor performances on how early in the year it is. High level of play every game should now be routine, and while the Leafs looked better beating the Red Wings — barely — they still have issues all up and down the lineup.
The biggest problems are on defence, and everyone knows this. The players know they aren’t performing at their best, and so does the coach. While it’s fine to say that Matthews and Marner both are just not getting the goals that will come — that’s almost certainly true — the issues on the blueline are much more troubling.
The young pair of Sandin and Liljegren looked excellent against the Red Wings, but the Vegas Golden Knights, even depleted, are not the Wings. So their performance is key tonight if they want to stay together as the difficulty level ramps up over the next few weeks.
Key to the game for the Leafs is that they play like they plan to finish first in the Atlantic as a matter of routine, because that’s who they are supposed to be.