The Toronto Maple Leafs are without two-thirds of the top-line for Friday’s rematch against the Edmonton Oilers. Auston Matthews left practise early yesterday and is listed as day-to-day. He will not play tonight. Joe Thornton left Wednesday game and is out at least four weeks with would be out after suffering a rib injury. Check out the video of Sheldon Keefe’s media conference after the morning skate. The usually upfront head coach is not indicating line combinations.
Two forwards out and three in, as the Maple Leafs are going back to the more traditional 12 forwards, six defenceman line up. Toronto used seven defensemen for the last two games, a win against the Winnipeg Jets and a loss to the Oilers.
While Keefe isn’t saying, it’s safe to assume, John Tavares gets to the top-line centre spot, likely bringing William Nylander to the first line with him. However, Mitch Marner has been looking good while recording nearly 25 minutes of ice time a game. Keefe will have to find a way to keep him in the action.
Pierre Engvall makes his first appearance of the season after losing his roster spot after training camp. He played 48 games for the Leafs last season, putting up 15 points. Alexander Barabanov is reinserted into the lineup after underperforming the first two starts of the season. The 26-year-old rookie skated eight shifts in both games; he has no points and is a minus one. Adam Brooks will play just his eighth NHL game.
Just five games into the season, and the injury bug has bit Toronto hard. Nick Robertson is on the long term injured reserve. out for four weeks as well. Toronto’s taxi squad is quickly being put to work. Keefe, called the taxi squad the stay ready players. We will find out just how ready they are tonight.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.