The Toronto Maple Leafs begin the Western Canada leg of their four-game road trip against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Tuesday. The two clubs are remarkably similar with their high-powered offenses but are challenged at keeping the puck out of their own net.
The Canucks have 103 goals in 30 games and are led by 2019 Calder Trophy winner Elias Pettersson (33 points), with three goal scorers in double figures (Pettersson, JT Miller, and Brock Boeser), while the Leafs are led by 2017 Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews (33 points) and have three players with 10 or more goals (Matthews, William Nylander, and John Tavares).
Vancouver has won their last two games, including a wild 6-5 overtime win over Buffalo on Saturday, and it is expected that the Leafs only contest in the Pacific Northwest will be a wide-open offensive affair.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe indicated that he will not make any changes to the lineup that won 5-2 in St. Louis on Saturday and that he will not shy away from relying heavily on his core players depending on how the game evolves.
“That is definitely my intention (to give them more ice time).” Keefe said on Monday. “Some of the games where they’ve played a little bit less than I’d like, the games have been in hand for us and we’re using our bench more. Those are great players that we think have an ability to make a real difference for us. We want to play with the lead as much as we can and we believe those guys give us the best chance in making that happen, so we want to try to get them involved early.”
Keefe once again will have Morgan Rielly paired with fellow BC native Tyson Barrie, Jake Muzzin with Justin Holl and Travis Dermott alongside Cody Ceci. Zach Hyman will stay in his familiar spot on a line with Tavares and Mitch Marner off a two-goal performance against the Blues, Pontus Aberg will remain on the line with Matthews and Nylander, Ilya Mikheyev will be lined up with Alex Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen, and the fourth line will be comprised of Nic Petan, Pierre Engvall, and Jason Spezza.
Frederik Andersen (14-7-3, 2.54 GAA, .918 save percentage) will make his fifth straight start for the Leafs, while Jacob Markstrom (8-7-3, 2.70 GAA, .913 save percentage) will go for Vancouver.
*******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******