Toronto Maple Leafs @ Ottawa Senators
7 p.m. at Canadian Tire Centre, SN
Opponent’s site: Silver Seven Sens
Ottawa has cut quite a few players, and is getting ready to play their real team. Well, real team minus Brady Tkachuk, of course.
Their roster for today is a mystery, as so far all DJ Smith has said is that he’ll rotate his remaining players through the rest of their games. We’ll update you when we know.
The Maple Leafs have made a few cuts of AHL players, and cleared Teemu Kivihalme through waivers, but that’s it so far. They went with some interesting lines at practice on Sunday ahead of the back-to-backs today and tomorrow.
Auston Matthews did a little more in practice, but isn’t ready yet. This is all good news, though, and he seems to be on track for a return at the start of the year.
The roster for tonight’s game:
This group formed up like this on Sunday’s practice:
Lines at Leafs practice— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) October 3, 2021
Kerfoot - Kampf - Kase
Bunting - Semyonov - Ho-Sang
Robertson - Amadio - Spezza
Engvall - Brooks - Simmonds
Muzzin - Holl
Sandin - Dermott
Dalhstrom - Biega
Hoefenmayer - Duszak
Noel Hoefenmayer played his junior hockey in Ottawa, so this is a second-home coming for him, but it’s unlikely he’ll play. Engvall should get in his first game of the preseason on one of the three fourth lines this team sports. The top line, which we’re calling the Special K line, looks very like what the Leafs might have as their third line on opening night.
Sheldon Keefe said Jack Campbell will go to the distance in net tonight for #Leafs vs Ottawa— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) October 4, 2021
The Leafs have decided to stress test their depth. I think the roster is now carved in stone, and these last three games are about who goes where to begin. The other group contains most of the likely top six, so this is a contest to see who looks like more than a third liner, but the coach’s mind seems made up on a few things already:
Keefe on Kase: "I see him as one that move up and down our lineup. I think he's going to challenge our players in our top-six. I think if we have injuries or what have you he's capable of filling in. I think he has a lot of defensive capabilities. He's really hard on the puck."— David Alter (@dalter) October 4, 2021
The Leafs have moved from having too few wingers to having too many, and the result is going to be one LW playing too high and one playing too low. The days of people complaining about Zach Hyman ruining the top line of the Leafs are something we can be nostalgic over in mid-January when everyone is having a bad week at the same time. For now, the question is how do you fit everyone in without wasting some valuable player on the fourth line.
The next three games are about answering that question.