Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Liljegren, Samsonov, Matthews & Marner

After losing two games in a row, the Toronto Maple Leafs have now won two games in a row. The team enters tonight’s game looking to extend its winning streak to three.

The Montreal Canadiens come in having suffered a loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. They are looking to get back on the winning side of the ledger.

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In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News and Rumors, I’ll share some of the team’s news as it heads into tonight’s game.

Item One: Timothy Liljegren Will Play Tonight

Timothy Liljegren was not able to finish Thursday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets due to an upper-body injury. He took a shot up high off the face mask and immediately went to the locker room. The good news is that Liljegren’s not severely injured and he will be able to play today against the Canadiens.

Timothy Liljegren Toronto Maple Leafs
Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It seems that Liljegren’s departure during the third period was precautionary in nature. He’ll likely draw onto the team’s top pairing with Morgan Rielly.

Item Two: Ilya Samsonov Gets Start in Montreal

Ilya Samsonov has had two solid games in a row. Against the Jets on Thursday night, he kept his team in the game until the puck started to go in for Auston Matthews during the second period. In total, he made 37 saves in a 4-1 win over Winnipeg. He played exceptionally well throughout the game. In fact, the only goal he surrendered came on a 5-on-3 power play in the third period. 

If the Maple Leafs are looking for consistency, it would seem that they are likely to find it with Samsonov rather than with Matt Murray in goal. Samsonov’s recent performances have been far superior to Murray’s.

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In speaking about his play in the net on Thursday, Samsonov noted: “I like it was a win, first off. Two points were great for us. I like how the team was moving and how the defensemen were in the defensive zone. It was a very good job today, we stayed strong, we stayed focused on the game…Two points and we keep rolling.”


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Apparently, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe wants to keep it “rolling” as well. Yesterday, Samsonov was named as the starter in tonight’s game against the Canadiens. He’ll be trying to extend his personal winning streak to three games.

Item Three: Can Auston Matthews Stay on Fire?

Matthews will be looking to continue his hot scoring against the Canadiens. After the game on Thursday, coach Keefe shared that Matthews just took the game over with his offence. He has now scored five goals in his past four games, including two on Thursday. His streak began on Jan. 8 and continued when he returned from an undisclosed injury that kept him out for two games.

Auston Matthews Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews and Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After the game, teammate Mitch Marner noted that Matthews was dialed in and looked fresh on the ice. He also said that when Matthews gets the puck in good areas, he’s not likely to miss. After Thursday, he’s tied with William Nylander for the team lead in goals with 24.

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For Matthews, Thursday’s success was the 56th multi-goal game of his six-season NHL career. Since he first skated in an NHL game in 2016-17, only one player – the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin – has more.

Item Four: Line Combinations for Tonight’s Game

According to Mark Masters, the Maple Leafs’ lines at practice on Friday were:

Forwards

Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – William Nylander 

Dryden Hunt – John Tavares – Mitch Marner 

Bobby McMann – David Kampf – Pierre Engvall 

Zach Aston-Reese – Alex Kerfoot – Wayne Simmonds 

Defensemen

Morgan Rielly – Timothy Liljegren 

Mark Giordano – Justin Holl 

Rasmus Sandin – Conor Timmins 

Jordie Benn (extra)

Goalies

Starting Goalie: Ilya Samsonov 

Backup Goalie: Matt Murray 

Absent: Calle Jarnkrok

Notes: During practice, Hunt was a placeholder for Jarnkrok. Jarnkrok is scheduled to dress for the game tonight. It looks like coach Keefe will give McMann a longer look and leave Pontus Holmberg with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies for the time being.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Canadiens got roasted on Thursday night by the visiting Florida Panthers. However, until that game, they were playing well and had won three of their last four games. The Panthers had a five-goal outburst in the second period, with four of those goals coming with the man advantage.

Ilya Samsonov Toronto Maple Leafs
Ilya Samsonov will be tasked with stopping the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis blamed those penalties on a lack of alertness by his players. The Habs will need to be ready again. I can’t imagine the Maple Leafs not being ready for this game, given the fact that they have lost in Montreal already this season.


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