JETS (28-29-5) at MAPLE LEAFS (27-20-11)
7:30 pm (TSN)
It’s the match-up that fans have wanted to see again, as first overall pick Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs take on second overall pick Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets.
It wasn’t the most desired outcome for Leafs fans as Laine and the Jets won their first match-up in October. The Jets won 5-4 in overtime after the Leafs blew a 4-1 lead going into the third period. Matthews recorded an assist in the loss but that was overlooked as Laine scored a hat trick in the victory including the game winner in overtime.
Both Matthews and Laine have been battling for the top in the scoring race. As it stands Laine, who hasn’t missed a beat since returning from a concussion, is leading all rookies with 52 points. Matthews isn’t far behind with 49.
The Jets are coming off back-to-back wins in Montreal and Ottawa, which is crucial for them as they’re sitting one point back of the Calgary Flames for a playoff spot. The only disadvantage is that teams currently have a few games in hand to catch the Jets or continue to hold their ground.
Center Mark Scheifele is continuing his torrid season, with 60 points in 59 games. Scheifele is currently fifth overall in league scoring and has tallied seven points in his last four games.
The Jets defense is starting to wear thin as Tobias Enstrom and Tyler Myers remain out long term with injuries. You can add Jacob Trouba to the list of defenseman unable to play. Trouba received a two- game suspension for an illegal check to the head on Ottawa Senators’ forward Mark Stone.
The Leafs are looking to get back on track after struggling since the All-Star break ended. The struggle continued on Saturday after blowing a 3-2 lead in the third against the Senators after coming back from 2-0. The Leafs had the Senators where they wanted them and then collapsed.
However, they bounced back after a strong performance on Sunday with a 4-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes. Auston Matthews scored a highlight reel goal while Connor Brown scored two and Curtis McElhinney recorded a shutout.
The Leafs are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games. With defense being the main area of concern, it’s still uncertain whether they try to add a defenseman at the deadline or if they continue with the course of “The Shanaplan.”
As the season winds down, the games and points become more important now that the Leafs are in the hunt for a playoff spot. They’ve already blown a few leads, they can’t afford to make many mistakes when they’re up ahead in the game.
One bright side, once again, is the play of Matthews and his merry men of rookies. Matthews has five goals and five assist in his last 10 games and William Nylander has four points in his last four games.
The Leafs will be without Mitch Marner again after he missed both of the weekend games. Marner was injured in the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets after going hard into the boards. Before the injury, Marner was on top of the scoring race and tallied four goals and five assists in nine games.
As a result, the Leafs have placed Marner on injured reserve and recalled Frederik “The Goat” Gauthier from the Toronto Marlies.
Frederik Andersen will be between the pipes for the Leafs, while Connor Hellebuyck is expected to be in net for the Jets.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Komarov — Kadri — Leivo
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Brown
Hyman — Matthews — Nylander
Martin — Gauthier — Soshnikov
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Polak
Ehlers — Little — Wheeler
Perreault — Scheifele — Laine
Matthias — Lowry — Armia
Tanev — Petan — Thorburn
Melchiori — Byfuglien
Morrissey — Chiarot
Stuart — Postma