The Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping for a better outcome in the second leg of their swing through the Sunshine State and part two of the mom’s trip, taking on the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on Saturday. The Leafs put forth a strong offensive effort but were thwarted by a 48-save performance from Andrei Vasilevskiy in a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday.
The Leafs will need to not take the struggling Panthers lightly, who are tied with Philadelphia at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with an 11-13-6 record (28 points) and without center Vincent Trocheck, who suffered a severe ankle injury last month.
The Leafs are expected to go back to Frederik Andersen (17-9-0, 2.50 GAA, .925 save %) between the pipes for the fourth straight game after allowing four goals on 21 shots against the Lightning, while the Panthers will start veteran Roberto Luongo (5-5-1, 3.04 GAA, .903 save %) in goal. Luongo has done well against Toronto in his career (22-11-3, 2.21 GAA & .929 save %, but is 0-2-1 and allowed four goals in each of his last four starts.
The Leafs will get Zach Hyman back in the lineup after the winger served his two-game suspension for a hit on Charlie McAvoy last Saturday. Hyman took his regular spot on the left side with John Tavares and Mitch Marner at practice on Friday and it is expected that Frederik Gauthier will be a healthy scratch and replaced on the fourth line by Connor Brown.
The Leafs may have short term concerns about their organizational depth in goal, but that may not be the case for the future. 2016 third-rounder Joseph Woll is having his best statistical year as a junior at Boston College and 2017 fourth rounder Ian Scott has an incredible 23-2-1 record, 1.61 GAA and .943 save percentage with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders this season.
On Friday, the Leafs announced the signing of Scott to a three-year entry-level contract, on the same day that the 19-year-old was selected as one of two goalies for Team Canada for the upcoming World Juniors in Vancouver and Victoria, BC later this month.
The deadline for final roster decisions is Wednesday and Toronto has four other prospects who were selected for preliminary rosters for the WJC. Toronto Marlies blueliner Timothy Liljegren suffered an ankle injury earlier this month and is out week-to-week. According to columnist Uffe Bodin , Team Sweden officials are expected to check back with the Leafs before the deadline to see if the 19-year-old will be healthy in time for the tournament.
Leafs 2018 top pick Rasmus Sandin continues to make a strong case for making Team Sweden, as the 18-year-old scored his fifth goal and added an assist in the Marlies 7-2 win over the Manitoba Moose on Friday. Swedish forward Pontus Holmberg (2018 6th rounder) and Czech blueliner Filip Kral (2018 5th rounder) were also selected.
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