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Toronto Maple Leafs @ Vegas Golden Knights Preview and Game Chat: Kaše Came Back

First game of a back-to-back.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Edmonton Oilers
EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 14: Ondrej Kase #25, Auston Matthews #34 and Michael Bunting #58 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period at Rogers Place on December 14, 2021 in Edmonton, Canada.
Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Vegas Golden Knights: Game #34

10:00 p.m. ET at T-Mobile Arena
TV/Streaming: TSN4, ATTSN-RM
Opponent’s Site: Knights On Ice

Ondřej Kaše is probably going to make his return to the lineup tonight after missing the last two games due to an off-ice injury in the gym. It’s not guaranteed that he’ll play, so the Leafs be dressing Brett Seney as an extra during warm-ups just in case, but Kaše himself seems pretty confident he’ll play.

Kaše should bring a significant boost to the Leafs forward depth, especially since he’ll be on the first line with Matthews and Bunting, pushing everyone else down into a more comfortable position. Alex Kerfoot is on the second line, Ilya Mikheyev is on the third line, Ritchie is on the fourth line, and we’re all the better for it.

That said, the Leafs are still without Mitch Marner, so the team’s two-way play might still be a little vulnerable like it was in Colorado. That said, I think this version of the third line is much better in terms of having an identity. I’m much more confident in Mikheyev, Kämpf, and Simmonds playing a zone possession game to give the big guys a rest than Kämpf with Ritchie and Spezza. With all respect to Spezz, but he’s still mostly a scorer and not a shutdown guy (faceoffs help, but that’s not the same thing as a possession game like what Kämpf does).

The defense remains the same and Campbell is in net. Sheldon Keefe did confirm Petr Mrazek will start tomorrow night against the Arizona Coyotes. That’ll be his first game since December 11th, only four games ago. Campbell has gotten all the in between starts because, well, they’ve been so spaced out so there’s no reason to rest him. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Mrazek was put into COVID protocol during the outbreak.

Leafs Lineup

Forwards

Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - Ondřej Kaše
Alex Kerfoot - John Tavares - William Nylander
Ilya Mikheyev - David Kämpf - Wayne Simmonds
Nick Ritchie - Jason Spezza - Kyle Clifford

OUT: Mitchell Marner (COVID), Pierre Engvall (COVID), Joey Anderson (scratched), Brett Seney (scratched)

Defense

Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin - Justin Holl
Rasmus Sandin - Travis Dermott

OUT: Timothy Liljegren (scratched), Alex Biega (scratched)

Goalies

Jack Campbell - confirmed starter
Petr Mrázek

As for the Golden Knights, they have a couple former Leafs on the roster, namely Ben Hutton, Michael Amadio, and Robin Lehner. Hutton is a nice, boring defenseman on the third pair, and Amadio is a scratch. Lehner is the starting goalie for them.

There was some big news in Vegas today as Jack Eichel took to the ice for the first time in a non-contact sweater after his neck surgery. It’ll still be weeks until he returns to the lineup, but progress is happening. I had some initial fears when I saw the practice report was that he was going to play tonight, but I got a little ahead of myself with the whole “non-contact” thing. The anxiety of being a Leafs fan.

Other than that, watch out for Mark Stone, Jonathan Marchessault, and the rest of the top six as the usual suspects. They’re missing Max Pacioretty, who is still an amazing scorer at age 33, but is out for the season with wrist surgery.

Golden Knights Lineup

Forwards

Evgenii Dadonov — Chandler Stephenson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Mattias Janmark — Brett Howden — Keegan Kolesar
Jonas Rondbjerg — Jake Leschyshyn — Michael Amadio

OUT: Jack Eichel (neck), Max Pacioretty (wrist), Nolan Patrick (COVID), Nic Roy (COVID)

Defense

Alex Pietrangelo — Zach Whitecloud
Brayden McNabb — Dylan Coghlan
Ben Hutton — Daniil Miromanov

OUT: Nicolas Hague (wrist), Alec Martinez (COVID), Shea Theodore (COVID)

Goalies

Robin Lehner
Logan Thompson

OUT: Laurent Brossoit (upper body)

UPDATE:

Three Knights have tested positive for COVID — Shea Theodore, Nolan Patrick, and Nic Roy — so the team called up three players from their AHL team to fill out the lineup. The game is still going to proceed. As a result, Michael Amadio plays. Adam Brooks, by the way, is on a conditioning loan in the AHL. Not sure what the injury is on that.