Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, McDavid, Kase & Hyman

Suddenly, things are a bit up in the air for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they prepare to play a struggling Edmonton Oilers’ team that’s coming into Scotiabank Arena tired from four games on the road. The Oilers have lost all four games they’ve played and look out of synch. The Oilers won only a single game in the month of December.

And, it might not get any easier for the Oilers. Today, we had word that the Oilers’ Connor McDavid has tested positive for COVID-19. 

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In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share the good news that Auston Matthews isn’t necessarily ruled out of Wednesday’s game. I’ll also share news about other players on the team as the Maple Leafs are getting ready for Wednesday’s contest.

Item One: Auston Matthews Tests Negative on Second Test

It looked as if the Maple Leafs might be without star center Auston Matthews, who tested positive from a rapid test yesterday and was awaiting news to see if it was a false positive. The word was today that Matthews’ PCR test came back negative.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Now that the PCR test has provided a negative result, he hasn’t been ruled out for Wednesday’s contest. It’s my understanding that Matthews will have to have another negative test tomorrow.

Item Two: Will Ondrej Kase Be Able to Play Tomorrow?

Every time I hear that Ondrej Kase is dealing with an injury, I immediately ask the question “Is it concussion-related?” The bad news is that Kase does have an “undisclosed injury.” But the good news is (I guess) that he “tweaked something” during a workout while he was at the gym. 

Count Kase as day-to-day with this injury. He’s become a great addition to the team and has now scored eight goals and eight assists (for 16 points) in the 28 games he’s played during the season.

Item Three: Jack Campbell Will Get the Start Against the Oilers

In no surprise at all, goalie Jack Campbell was named as the starter against the Oilers. He’s fresh from a relatively easy 23-save shutout on Saturday as the Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators. On the season, Campbell has a record of 16-5-2, a goals-against-average of 1.86, and a save percentage of .939 in 24 games (he’s started 23 games and was in relief when backup goalie Petr Mrazek first pulled his groin). 

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

During his last five games, Campbell has gone 3-1-1, with a goals-against-average of 2.37, and a save percentage of .924. Even if McDavid is out of the lineup, the Oilers will generate a lot of shots on net, so Campbell could be busy.

Item Four: Timothy Liljegren Is Off COVID-19 Protocols

In some good news, Timothy Liljegren returned to practice on Monday after being cleared from COVID-19 protocol. During the practice, he was on the Maple Leafs’ fourth defensive pairing. Might that mean he won’t be in the lineup on Wednesday?

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Liljegren has not yet scored his first NHL goal and has played 32 NHL games. It would be great to see him score sometime soon. However, unlike his often defensive partner Rasmus Sandin, the 22-year-old Liljegren might never have much of an offensive upside. Still, 32 games aren’t enough to tell how his career will project in the future.

Item Five: Teemu Kivihalme Sent Back to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies

Earlier this week, Teemu Kivihalme was moved down to the Toronto Marlies. Kivihalme hasn’t played much this season, only being in three AHL games this season. He hasn’t scored yet. 

Teemu Kivihalme Finland Emil Larsson Sweden
Teemu Kivihalme of Finland and Emil Larsson of Sweden (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva via AP)

The 26-year-old Minnesota native, who’s also played for two seasons in Finland’s SM-Liiga with Karpat, was a fifth-round (140th overall) draft choice by the Nashville Predators in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He hasn’t yet made his NHL debut since being signed by the Maple Leafs in May 2019.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Two things are up in the air for Wednesday’s game. First, will McDavid play for the Oilers? Second, will Matthews play for the Maple Leafs? 

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A third question is how Zach Hyman will play against his former team. He’s had a decent season, especially early on when the Oilers were playing well. However, over his last 10 games, he hasn’t scored a goal and has only three assists. His last goal came when he scored two against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 1, 2021. By the way, it was the Oilers’ last win.

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