Toronto Maple Leafs @ Edmonton Oilers: Game #30
9:00 p.m. ET at Rogers Place
Opponent’s Site: Copper n Blue
The Leafs are heading out west again for a road trip through Canada and then back into the US. The Calgary leg of their trip on Thursday has gotten postponed due to a COVID outbreak, but the team is still going to see Edmonton and Vancouver this week. With Mitch Marner on LTIR, the Leafs have loaded up their 23-man roster with extras just in case.
As for the Oilers, former Leaf Zach Hyman is injured after appearing to twist his right hand/shoulder after getting rubbed out along the boards against someone on Carolina. He’s listed as day-to-day and might play tonight, though it sounds unlikely.
The Leafs “replacement” for Hyman over the summer, Nick Ritchie, is dealing with some sort of illness (team specified it’s not COVID but they are keeping him away from the team) and might not go either. Brett Seney is poised to make his Leafs debut after a scorching start to his Marlies season, showing skill and attitude in excess.
Ilya Mikheyev is also back, making his season debut after breaking his thumb in preseason. He’s on the third line with Engvall and Kampf. Rumours are abound in Edmonton that their incredible defense and incredibly void offense are going to create a black hole around Connor McDavid. He’s not faster than light, right?
Either way, that’s the line to watch tonight.
On defense, Justin Holl is back on the third pair, as Timothy Liljegren gets another game next to Jake Muzzin. Liljegren’s season has been very positive so far. He started the year as the seventh defenseman, outplayed Travis Dermott for a regular job, and has now on his way to dispatch Holl for the second pair right-shot job.
Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - Ondřej Kaše
Alex Kerfoot - John Tavares - William Nylander
Pierre Engvall - David Kämpf - Ilya Mikheyev
Kyle Clifford - Brett Seney - Wayne Simmonds
Injured: Mitchell Marner (shoulder), Nick Ritchie (sick)
Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Timothy Liljegren
Travis Dermott - Justin Holl
Injured: Rasmus Sandin
Jack Campbell - confirmed starter
The Oilers have lost five in a row, and from what I can tell it’s from a massive drop off in 5v5 shooting. The Oilers power play has always been what’s pushed them above average as a hockey team, just so long as the 5v5 play didn’t completely screw them (like it did in the playoffs last year). Well, at the moment it’s screwing them.
The Leafs haven’t been the best 5v5 team since Marner got injured, so it won’t be a walk in the park for one of the league’s best possession teams. I’m curious to see how this game is going to play out. Maybe the Leafs can handle a special teams game against the Oilers, but I wouldn’t have any confidence in coming out on top there. Beating them at 5v5 will be tough with a depleted roster, but I think it’s more possible. At the end of the day, it’ll come down to what the refs want this game to be.
Leon Draisaitl - Connor McDavid - Zack Kassian
Warren Foegele - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jesse Puljujarvi
Devin Shore - Ryan McLeod - Kailer Yamamoto
Tyler Benson - Derek Ryan - Colton Sceviour
Injured: Zach Hyman
Darnell Nurse- Evan Bouchard
Duncan Keith - Cody Ceci
Markus Niemelainen - Tyson Barrie
Injured: Kris Russell, Slater Koekkoek
Stuart Skinner - confirmed starter
I can’t help but think of this meme every time I see that first line. I know the Leafs had a similar thing when Nick Ritchie was on the first line, but at least the Leafs understood by November that that plan wasn’t going to work.