Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Muzzin, Biega, Matthews & Line Combos

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a quick two-game road trip to New York City before they head home for a game a week from today against the Anaheim Ducks. Tonight they play the Rangers and on Saturday they play the Islanders. It should be a good game against the Rangers tonight. 

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The Rangers just got back from a five-game road trip themselves and went 3-2 on that trip. But they were dealing with COVID-19 and a number of players were in the NHL’s protocol. It should be a more normal lineup for both teams, with the exception of Jake Muzzin who’s out with a concussion. 

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In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the news that’s emerging from the team as it prepares for the game tonight.

Item One: Jake Muzzin Is Out With a Concussion

Jake Muzzin won’t be in the Maple Leafs’ lineup tonight in New York against the Rangers. Muzzin took a hard hit on Saturday night in the team’s win over the St. Louis Blues was on Tuesday he was diagnosed with a concussion.

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The report is that Muzzin will miss at least a week. Fortunately, the team doesn’t have the fullest schedule over that stretch. Muzzin will also miss the Islanders’ game on Saturday but could be back when the team plays at home next Wednesday against the Ducks.  

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Muzzin has had an up-and-down season, but he eats up huge minutes, He’s been averaging 22 minutes of ice time since the end of December. He’s scored a goal and has added 11 points in 35 games over the 2021-22 regular season.

Item Two: Alex Biega Jumps Into the Lineup in Muzzin’s Place

Alex Biega was promoted from the taxi squad to the active roster on Tuesday and will play tonight. Biega’s played in one NHL game this season and skated 13:53 of ice time in the Maple Leafs’ New Year Day 6-0 win over the Ottawa Senators. 

Alex Biega Detroit Red Wings
Alex Biega, when he played with the Detroit Red Wings
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 33-year-old Biega has been solid both at the AHL and the NHL level. He’s registered four assists in 15 AHL games with the Toronto Marlies this season.

Item Three: Auston Matthews Could Tie NHL Record for Road Goals

Under the watch-for-what-happens category, Auston Matthews could tie an NHL record by scoring in his 11th straight road game tonight. If he does score, Matthews would tie the NHL record first set by the Detroit Red Wings’ Steve Yzerman in 1988-89 and then tied by matched by the Vancouver Canucks’ Pavel Bure during the 1993-94 season.

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

The last time Matthews was held scoreless in a road game was on November 21 against the Islanders. During his current streak, he’s scored 12 goals. His recent prowess has jumped him up the leaderboard for NHL goal-scoring. Currently, Matthews has 25 goals on the season, which puts him only one behind both the Washington Capital’s Alex Ovechkin and the Edmonton Oiler’s Leon Draisaitl for the NHL lead. 

Item Four: Tonight’s Line Combinations

With Muzzin out, the lineup changes a bit. In this morning’s Daily Faceoff, David Alter reported that the Maple Leafs’ line combinations for tonight’s game would be:

Forwards

First Line: Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner

Second Line: Alex Kerfoot – John Tavares – William Nylander

Third Line: Ilya Mikheyev – David Kampf – Pierre Engvall

Fourth Line: Kyle Clifford – Jason Spezza – Wayne Simmonds

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Defensive Pairings

First-Pairing: Morgan Rielly – T.J. Brodie

Second-Pairing: Rasmus Sandin – Timothy Liljegren

Third-Pairing: Travis Dermott – Alex Biega

Goalie

Jack Campbell

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In a recent post, I might have erred when I noted that goalie Jack Campbell could be fatigued. In retrospect, it might be just the opposite. It’s tough to say, but might Campbell need more work than he’s had? He’s only played five games over the past month. He played on December 14 but didn’t play again until the Senators’ game on New Year’s Day.  

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He did spend 10 days on the NHL’s Covid-91 protocol. Rather than fatigue, might his recent issues have more to do with inactivity and recovering from COVID-19? Whatever the issue, he’ll likely have to be on top of his game tonight. The Rangers are a strong team.