The Maple Leafs begin their road trip in California by trying to avenge their Nov. 8 5-1 loss to the LA Kings tonight at the Staples Center (22.00 EST, Sportsnet Ontario).
Since we are all too tired to write or read much, here is your abbreviated preview of the game late at night:
- Jake Muzzin will play in LA as the Maple Leaf for the first time since the deal to Toronto in January 2019 – two and a half years later. He missed the March 2020 meeting at the Staples Center due to an injury. Fittingly, defender Sean Durzi, acquired by LA from the Leafs in the Muzzin trade just six months after being drafted by Toronto in the second round of the 2018 draft, is expected to make his NHL debut on the Kings’ blue line. It’s also a money-on-board game for Muzzin Jack Campbell, returning to his first start in LA as a magazine.
- Andreas Athanasiou, who was a big thorn in the eye of the Leafs in the first meeting against the Kings (a 5-1 LA win), is in the Covid protocol and will not play tonight. Drew Doughty and Quinton Byfield stay out of the game due to injury while Viktor Arvidsson has returned in the last couple of matches and skates on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.
- Philip Danault‘s line with Athanasiou and Alex Iafallo scored three goals against the Leafs and carried over 65% of the shot attempts in the Kings’ 5-1 victory in Toronto; tonight, Adrian Kempe will join Danault and Iafallo in Athanasious absence. Keefe has repeatedly mentioned the Leafs’ problems defending speed in the transition against people like the Kings and Penguins (x2) this season; they have been bothersome opponents of the Leafs as skilled counterpunchers with the skill and speed to reveal a defense if the Leafs lose their numbers up the ice. A structured, patient game from the Leafs has been their winning formula lately, and more of the same will be needed tonight.
- Tonight’s starts in the LA network, Jonathan Quick, turns time back with a .939 save percentage through 10 starts this season. He stopped 33 of 34 in Toronto as the Leafs did not challenge him enough with second / third chances from the high-risk areas early in the game. Despite all their impressive success lately, at 5 against 5, the Leafs are still seeking to crack the puzzle of underproducing relative to their underlying offensive measurements. Yesterday, Sheldon Keefe identified a need for “more urgent attacks on the net” during the Leafs’ league-leading offensive zone possession time.
Game Day Quotes
King’s head coach Todd McLellan on lessons from their first win over Toronto:
The simple answer for replication is the result, but there is much more that goes into it. Our start in Toronto was the type of start we needed. Of course, they will address this, so we better be extra prepared.
Every team in the league when they play against the Leafs talks about what they do well and how dynamic they are. We’re in a place right now where we need to talk a little more about ourselves and our game. Not that it has been really bad, but we have to find a way to end good matches. We have played well, but we have not won. It’s not good enough in this league.
McLellan on Leafs’ games to score five to five:
I see the Leafs play and they may have a hard time scoring, but they are not struggling to get chances. There is a huge difference. With us, if nothing happened in a match for 60 minutes, you would be a little worried. We have had great scoring chances.
We still expect our team to check and play responsibly everywhere. If we did not get those chances, I would be worried, but I think if the chances are there, for the natural finishers, it will come out eventually. I hope it happens for Toronto three nights from now.
McLellan on Philip Danault’s success in the Matthews / Marner match:
The unique thing about that matchup is that it has happened away from us. Phil has confidence if he has it and he should have some of it. The rest of us do not quite understand what happened; we have just witnessed it. Phil carries that confidence. The rest of us have to play around with him.
We had a great night in Toronto. As the game went on, they made it harder for us. That hardness we can expect from them in 60 minutes. Phil wants a job to do. Kopitar will. All the centers want that.
Honestly, Phil’s job does not get any harder than Kopis or any other center. They all fit well together. They will all be challenged.
Sheldon Keefe on whether he should rein in Ondrej Kase as he knows how hard he is playing and linked the injury risk:
It makes him, him. I do not think you want to downplay guys. For a guy who’s had injury issues he’s dealt with, he does not let it change his game. It talks a lot about the type of player he is and why he has fitted in so well here.
… He is a player with very low maintenance. Whatever we have asked of him, he has done. He had pretty much not hit a penalty kick at all in his career until this season. I talked to him about getting him some reps through the preseason and early in camp to see if he could add to his role. He has taken it on.
He’s a guy who’s been playing powerplay all his career. We gave him some time there, but we chose to give Engvall some time to run with it. He has not questioned it or let it affect anything. Whatever we have asked him to do, he has embraced it. You can not get enough of those guys.
Keefe on whether it’s now time to give William Nylander a push for a point in his last five:
Slightly. Not so much a push, but we need to talk to him and reinforce the things that he did well and what he does best. I chatted with him today. I reminded him of the things he needs to do and wanted to see what he needs from me to help him get back to it.
He is a player who has had these fluctuations in the past where he is really strong and there are times when it falls. Most players go through it. It’s just a matter of him getting back to moving his feet, staying engaged, and things will happen.
Keefe on Wayne Simmonds’ Ice Skating and Skill Improvements:
Looking at the number and type of scoring chances he has generated, I think he protects the puck really well. Just with my hands in general, to be able to get out of cramped spaces and into the middle of the ice, I see a real transfer from what he has been working on this summer and what we are constantly getting him to rehearse.
He is in many of the early sessions we have before training. We consistently involve him in them. I know when we talked about it last season, many of the things were new to him. It has taken him a while to get acquainted with it.
Throughout the offseason and now again this season while his role is reduced, we have added more reps to training before and after for him. I’ve seen a lot of transfer. The results have not come in the form of the puck going in for him, but we believe that if he can continue to get to those spots and create those chances, it will fall.
His role has been reduced this season, but his chance generation has actually increased a lot. It’s a really nice development.
Toronto Maple Leafs projected lines
# 58 Michael Bunting – # 34 Auston Matthews – # 16 Mitch Marner
# 15 Alex Kerfoot – # 91 John Tavares – # 88 William Nylander
# 20 Nick Ritchie – # 64 David Kampf – # 25 Ondrej Kase
# 47 Pierre Engvall – # 19 Jason Spezza – # 24 Wayne Simmonds
# 44 Morgan Rielly – # 78 TJ Brodie
# 8 Jake Muzzin – # 3 Justin Holl
# 38 Rasmus Sandin – # 37 Timothy Liljegren
Starter: # 36 Jack Campbell
# 60 Joseph Woll
Additional: Travis Dermott, Joey Anderson, Kirill Semyonov
Hurt: Ilya Mikheyev, Petr Mrazek
Los Angeles Kings Projected Lines
# 33 Viktor Arvidsson – # 11 Anze Kopitar – # 23 Dustin Brown
# 9 Adrian Kempe – # 24 Phillip Danault – # 19 Alex Iaffallo
# 24 Lias Andersson – # 89 Rasmus Kupari – # 12 Trevor Moore
# 48 Brendan Lemieux – # 46 Blake Lizotte – # 34 Arthur Kaliyev
# 2 Alexander Edler – # 3 Matt Roy
# 33 Tobias Bjornfot – # 44 Mikey Anderson
# 6 Olli Maatta – # 50 Sean Durzi
Starter: # 32 Jonathan Quick
# 40 Cal Petersen
Injured / Away: Andreas Athanasiou, Quinton Byfield, Drew Doughty, Sean Walker