The Toronto Maple Leafs look to get back on the winning track as they take on the Montreal Canadiens in the middle match of a three-game set at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday. The Leafs surrendered a lead late in regulation on Phillip Danault’s goal and lost 3-2 in overtime on Cole Caufield’s second NHL goal.
The Habs are playing their second of back-to-back games after a 5-1 loss in Ottawa on Wednesday and trail Winnipeg by two points in the race for third place in the North Division after the Jets 4-0 victory over Calgary, while the Leafs hold a six-point lead on Edmonton for top spot, with the Oilers playing Vancouver on Thursday.
With the absence of winger Nick Foligno (who is day-to-day with an unspecified injury) the Leafs will make two lineup changes, inserting newcomer Stefan Noesen and Pierre Engvall for Adam Brooks. The 28-year-old Noesen was part of the three-way deal that sent Foligno through San Jose for cap retention purposes and has over 200 games of NHL experience with Anaheim, New Jersey. Pittsburgh and the Sharks.
The only line that remains intact is the unit of Alex Galchenyuk, John Tavares and William Nylander. Noesen will slot in on the checking line with Ilya Mikheyev and Alex Kerfoot, Engvall replaced Joe Thornton on the fourth line with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds, while Thornton replaces Foligno on the top line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Jack Campbell will start for Toronto, while the Canadiens starter is likely rookie Cayden Primeau after Jake Allen took the loss to the Senators.
The Maple Leafs coaching staff and brass were undoubtedly interested observers of the Toronto Marlies – Manitoba Moose game at Coca-Cola Coliseum on Thursday afternoon, as Frederik Andersen saw his first game action since March 19 in Calgary.
Frederik Andersen is making his first AHL start this afternoon since Jan. 12, 2014 -- when he played for Norfolk at Springfield.
He's eligible to remain with the Marlies for up to three games under the terms of his LTI conditioning loan. pic.twitter.com/oEfI6Uvkwj
“The eye is just really to get Fred back up and running here and we've got to take that one step at a time. The first step in that process is just to increase his workload. He's feeling good and was taking on a lot in our practices, which has got him ready for the next step here. We do have a little bit of time remaining and want to make sure we're smart with it.” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He'll start with a half game here today and then we'll reassess it from there. In terms of the playoffs or anything like that, I don't have to make that decision here today. I don't have all the information. I'm not going to make it or make any statement on it other than to say that Fred's making his way back and Jack Campbell's been playing extremely well. His confidence is growing and our team's confidence in him is growing.”
Andersen started sluggishly, allowing two first period goals to Manitoba’s Jeff Malott and Ty Pelton-Byce, but settled down and left the game in the second period with 12 saves.
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