Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Line Combos, 3 Streaks & Engvall

Tonight the Toronto Maple Leafs play a Calgary Flames team that should be in a nasty mood. The Flames are coming in on a back-to-back. Last night, they played in Columbus against former teammate Johnny Gaudreau and the Blue Jackets and lost 3-1. The loss halted the Flames’ three-game winning streak.

Flames’ coach Darryl Sutter was less than pleased. He noted, “I think our defense struggled mightily with the puck and in coverage for the whole game.” Sutter added, “Some guys came for a visit, not to try and win the hockey game. Very disappointed.” Look for some fire from the Flames.

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In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, because there are so many injuries or players out of the lineup, I’ll share some of the changes that will be in effect for this evening’s game.

Item One: Line Combinations and Defensive Pairings Given the Changes

Because the Maple Leafs’ lineup has a number of absent players, there will be several adjustments for their game tonight.

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The last news of the line combinations was from practice yesterday prior to the ruling that Pierre Engvall would be suspended for this game. At practice yesterday, the lines looked like this. I am assuming that Joey Anderson, who was just called up from the Toronto Marlies, will slot into Engvall’s spot on the third line.

Line Combinations

First LineMichael BuntingAuston MatthewsWilliam Nylander
Second LineDenis MalginJohn TavaresMitch Marner
Third LineAlex KerfootDavid KampfJoey Anderson
Fourth LineZach Aston-ReesePontus HolmbergWayne Simmonds

Defensive Pairings

PairingsLeft SideRight Side
First PairingMark GiordanoJustin Holl
Second PairingRasmus SandinTimothy Liljegren
Third PairingTJ BrodieConor Timmins

Conor Timmins has looked solid in his two games with the team. He’ll match-up with T.J. Brodie, who’s playing his natural side for the game tonight.

Item Two: Maple Leafs Trying to Extend Three Streaks

Against the Flames, the Maple Leafs will try to extend three streaks. The first steak is that the team has collected at least a point in 13 straight games. They’ll be hunting for 14 straight tonight. During that time, their record is 10-0-3; and, the team is currently in fourth place in the NHL with 40 points. Only the New Jersey Devils, the Boston Bruins (both with 43), and the Vegas Golden Knights (with 41) have more points.

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Second, the Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner is seeking to extend his franchise record for consecutive games with points to 22 games. He scored against the Los Angeles Kings in the team’s last game to push the record to 21 games. During that stretch, he’s collected 10 goals and 18 assists.

Mitch Marne and Rasmus Sandin Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner and Rasmus Sandin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Third, the Maple Leafs have recorded two shutout wins in a row. They beat the Dallas Stars, 4-0, (Matt Murray made 44 saves) on the road and then beat the Kings, 5-0, (with Ilya Samsonov making 29 saves) at home. Is it possible to string that to three straight games? Murray has been confirmed as tonight’s starting goalie.

Item Three: Pierre Engvall Given One-Game Suspension

The team will not have Engvall in its lineup tonight. He was suspended for one game for high-sticking Kings’ defenseman Sean Durzi. The truth is that, from what I could see, Engvall whacked Durzi over the back of the head with his stick. Honestly, it could have been an accidental reaction, but it didn’t seem to be.

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Fortunately, Durzi wasn’t hurt and didn’t miss a shift. However, Engvall was given a match penalty for his stick work. He was then suspended after he met with the NHL’s Disciplinary Committee via phone Friday. He’ll be able to play in Tuesday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. 

Related: Maple Leafs Commentary: Pierre Engvall, If Only He Were Physical

Ironically, the 26-year-old Swedish winger has often been encouraged to be more physical on the ice. That was a trait he showed when he played with the Marlies. But perhaps this was not this way the team wanted to see his physicality in action. 

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

I’m looking forward to seeing Anderson play. In his time in the AHL, he’s been a team leader. He’s also been a consistent scorer this season with 11 goals and eight assists (for 19 points) in 21 AHL games. In a recent interview, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that the team had been looking forward to giving Anderson a chance to play at the NHL level. 

Joey Anderson Toronto Marlies
Joey Anderson, Toronto Marlies (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Keefe noted that, “Each time he goes down to the Marlies, he is a true leader for them down there in all facets. The coaching staff really likes and appreciates his game. He has been productive offensively. He is a hard-working guy. I think it’s just that the timing was right.”

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Keefe also added that, “The reality is that we have sped things up here given the injury situation. He is a guy we were looking at calling up quite soon anyhow regardless of injuries. We feel that with Järnkork’s injury, there was an opportunity to get him more involved. Things have moved up a little bit there.”

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