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Maple Leafs Pre-Playoff Practice Report

Bunting is unlikely, Kaše is a maybe, but someone is playing in the top six, and it’s not Nylander.

Dallas Stars v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The Maple Leafs had their last pre-playoffs practice on Sunday afternoon ahead of their home game against Tampa Bay Monday night.

There are still some questions around the opening night lineup, but from various reports, Michael Bunting is unlikely to play — he did not participate fully in practice — but Ondřej Kaše did do the full workout for the first time out of a no-contact jersey. He might draw in, but is a game-time decision. Which means the full lineup won’t be certain until the puck drops on Monday.

However:

Kaše on the second unit for power play work says to me he is playing.

Lines from practice:

Alexander Kerfoot - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev - John Tavares - Ondřej Kaše
William Nylander - David Kämpf - Pierre Engvall
Kyle Clifford - Colin Blackwell - Wayne Simmonds

That leaves Jason Spezza and Nick Abruzzese as the scratches, with Michael Bunting still too injured to play.

Joey Anderson was returned to the AHL yesterday, but since the Marlies are out of the playoffs and the regular NHL season is over, the Leafs can recall any number of players previously loaned to the Marlies without restriction. They haven’t made any such recalls official yet, however.

The defence pairings seem to be shaking out this way, based on practice reports:

Morgan Rielly - Ilya Lyubushkin
Jake Muzzin - T.J. Brodie
Mark Giordano - Timothy Liljegren

That puts Justin Holl as a scratch and Rasmus Sandin as still injured.

The opportunity exists with this structure to swap Giordano and Muzzin and Lyubushkin and Brodie, depending on need, performance and game situation. Sheldon Keefe isn’t shy about using his defence in ways that aren’t just rote throw them over the boards combinations. For the first time in the Matthews era Maple Leafs, there is no clear distinction between the top four and the third pair. About the only thing that’s certain is that Rielly and Brodie will lead in ice time. I think it’s very likely Giordano will play a role in the playoffs that is more than third-pairing minutes. He averaged 19 minutes per game in his 20 games for the Leafs (all-situations), which is the fifth highest on the team ahead of Holl, Sandin, Lyubushkin, Liljegren and the departed Travis Dermott.

In case it needs to be said, Jack Campbell is the playoff starter, and Erik Källgren will remain as the back-up for now.