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.
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.
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.
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.
Related: Capital City Challenge Player Awards
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.
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.
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:
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
First-Pairing: Morgan Rielly – T.J. Brodie
Second-Pairing: Rasmus Sandin – Timothy Liljegren
Third-Pairing: Travis Dermott – Alex Biega
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
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.
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.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf