Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Campbell, Spezza, Steeves & Creative Lines

As the Toronto Maple Leafs head towards a game this evening with the Vancouver Canucks, fans should expect a bit of a different lineup. Yesterday the team was rocked with the news that four of its players were assigned to the NHL’s protocols for COVID-19 after test results. All four, as I understand it, will have to produce two negative COVID-19 tests in a row before they are able to rejoin the team. Then, only if symptoms allow it.

Related: 7 Cool Things About Carey Price

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll share who those four players are. Then, I’ll give the news of players who will come in as replacements. There’s also some regular news to share as well. 

Item One: Jack Campbell will start on Saturday against Vancouver. 

In Jack Campbell’s last start against the Edmonton Oilers, he seemed to shake off any issues he’s had recently about letting goals behind him. In Edmonton on Tuesday, he faced 36 shots on the net and allowed only one goal as the team won by a 5-1 score. 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In the season over 23 games played, Campbell has a record of 15-5-2, a great goals-against-average of 1.94, and a great save percentage of .937. Although it’s likely that backup goalie Petr Mrazek would play in Sunday night’s second game of a back-to-back against the Seattle Kraken, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that the decision hasn’t been finalized.

Item Two: Four Maple Leafs’ Players Under NHL COVID-19 Protocols

Now the bad news for the team. Four Maple Leafs’ players – Jason Spezza, John Tavares, Alex Kerfoot, and Wayne Simmondsall have joined the list of NHL players entering the league’s COVID-19 protocols. The tests were apparently done on Thursday and the results were announced yesterday. As a result, for precautionary reasons, Friday’s practice was called off.

Jason Spezza Toronto Maple Leafs
Jason Spezza, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With Spezza, Tavares, Kerfoot, and Simmonds out of action, until they can produce two negative results in a row, the team is down four forwards. Obviously, coach Keefe will have to scramble to create some lineup magic. Who will center the team’s second line is the biggest question facing the coach.

Item Three: Projected Maple Leafs’ Line Combinations

In this morning’s Daily Faceoff, the Athletics’ Jonas Siegel suggested that the line combinations would be:

First Line: Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – Ondrej Kase

Second Line: Ilya Mikheyev – Pierre Engvall – William Nylander

Third Line: Nick Ritchie – David Kampf – Brett Seney

Fourth Line: Kyle Clifford – Alex Steeves – Carl Dahlstrom 

[Note that Dahlstrom usually plays defense, so that’s an interesting move on the Maple Leafs’ part. Ritchie and Seney are listed as game-time decisions.]

Item Four: Maple Leafs Recall Alex Steeves from the Marlies

As a replacement for one of the team’s forwards under the NHL protocol, the Maple Leafs have recalled Alex Steeves (who’s usually a winger) from the Toronto Marlies. Steeves started his first NHL game during his last call-up, and he registered an assist in the three games he’s played. With the Marlies, he has scored seven goals and five assists (for 12 points) in 12 AHL games.

Item Five: Maple Leafs Recall Defenseman Carl Dahlstrom from the Marlies

The Maple Leafs also called up defenseman Carl Dahlstrom from their Marlies affiliate. As noted, it’s interesting that Dahlstrom is penciled in as the fourth-line’s right-winger. If he plays, and it looks as if he will, it will be his NHL game since the 2019-20 season when he played in 15 games with the Winnipeg Jets.

Item Six: Nick Ritchie Comes Back at a Good Time

Nick Ritchie Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Ritchie, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

What an interesting situation the pandemic has caused for all of us. For the immediate future, the Maple Leafs will be forced to be creative with team decisions to piece together a lineup of healthy bodies. 

Related: 4 NHL Backup Goalies Who Should Be Starters

Should the game be played, it should be an interesting one. It seems like the stuff of movies, which now seems to be everyday life in the NHL these days. What does it say about the Winter Olympics?

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