With Alexander Kerfoot missing from practice Tuesday, Maple Leafs Sheldon Keefe took to the whiteboard for some new line combinations.
Kerfoot didn’t play as much in the third period in the Leafs previous game, add the fact that he skated with Joe Thornton in a grey sweater ahead of practice and it could hint at an upcoming absence from the lineup. Later, we got confirmation that Kerfoot is day-to-day leaving room for one of the new lines seen at practice: Wayne Simmonds on the right of John Tavares and William Nylander.
#Leafs lines at practice:— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) February 2, 2021
This isn’t the first time Simmonds has played with Tavares and Nylander aside from the powerplay. The Scarborough native has seen 10:13 with the former and 11:55 (via Natural Stat Trick) with the latter at 5v5 when Keefe wants to mix things up.
You also have to consider if this move would’ve been done even if Kerfoot was at practice. Jimmy Vesey hasn’t been as noticeable in the “be like Hyman” department, while Ilya Mikheyev hasn’t been able to capitalize on his scoring chances. This may have been written in the stars already.
What stands out about Simmonds to me is his puck retrieval in the defensive zone. Whether it’s a block or a stick check, he’s able to quickly transition the puck out via an outlet, and that’s something I feel can benefit Nylander in particular.
Regardless, a full run of Nylander-Tavares-Simmonds, if Keefe chooses to run with them, will be interesting and annoying for the opposition’s crease, considering how much 24 and 88 produce in the paint.
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