The Toronto Maple Leafs begin a three-game homestand on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings at Scotiabank Arena, hoping to make November a more successful month after struggling in the opening month. The club is expected to get a much-needed boost with the return of center John Tavares and defenseman Jake Muzzin to the lineup.
Tavares has missed seven games and nearly three weeks with a broken finger and was thought to be close to returning last weekend in Philadelphia, but the Leafs medical staff opted to be cautious and did not clear the team captain after he still had difficulty gripping the stick, shooting and applying pressure to the injured digit.
"We've spent too much time in the D zone and not enough time in the offensive zone."
The club was able to win 4-3 over the Flyers without Tavares, as Andreas Johnsson converted for the game-winner in the 11th round of the shootout (the longest in Leafs history). Tavares skated with wingers Trevor Moore and Mitch Marner at the Ford Performance Centre in Etobicoke, ON on Monday and was cautiously optimistic that he will return to the lineup on Tuesday.
“Over the last couple of days, I have made some more really good progress,”
Tavares said. “I still have talk to the medical staff after today, but I feel pretty good and would like to be in tomorrow. We’ll cover our bases and hopefully that is the case.”
Muzzin suffered a leg injury after being hit by Washigton’s Tom Wilson last week, took his normal spot on the left side with partner Tyson Barrie and will replace Martin Marincin in the lineup to play against his old team for the first time since being traded last January.
“It’ll be different, I’ve never done that,” Muzzin said about facing the club he won a Cup with in 2014. “Last year, we didn’t meet up after the trade. It will be a little fun out there, seeing the guys I played with a long time. It will be different, but it will be fun.
Head coach Mike Babcock demoted veteran center Jason Spezza to an extra skater at practice after his best game as a Leaf on Saturday, opting to keep the fourth line unit of Dmytro Timashov, Nick Shore and Frederik Gauthier intact. Spezza assisted on Kasperi Kapanen’s first period goal, scored his first of the season to tie the game in the second period and kept Toronto alive in the shootout after Travis Konecny put the Flyers in the lead.
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