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Shaking up the lines and looking for non-rentals?? Leafs vs. Ducks

January 26, 2022, 12:59 PM ET [567 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs return home for the first time in three weeks to play the Anaheim Ducks in an empty Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday. The Leafs went 3-2-1 on their six-game road swing and are coming off a 3-1 win over the NY Islanders, but that has not stopped head coach Sheldon Keefe from stirring the pot when it comes to his forward lines.

At practice this week at the Ford Performance Centre, the core combos of Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner and John Tavares/William Nylander were split apart. While Matthews and Marner produced regularly on the road trip, that was not the case for the second line, as Tavares had just two points (1G, 1A) in six games and Nylander had three (1G, 2A) on the road trip.

Matthews skated with wingers Michael Bunting and Ondrej Kase, Tavares was reunited with Marner and Ilya Mikheyev, Alex Kerfoot and Nylander moved to the third line with checking center David Kampf, and Pierre Engvall lined up with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds.

"You'll see me move things around to ensure that (Kampf) is still getting the D-zone starts that I like him to have and at times he'll come off that line when there are O-zone faceoffs," Keefe said. "We've now put Mikheyev, Engvall, and Kampf on three different lines as well There's a ton of focus on Matthews, Tavares, Marner, and Nylander and how they're spread over three lines, but also having Kampf, Engvall, and Mikheyev with how well they've played. We think those three guys on different lines adds a lot to us. Those guys are really established play for us. We've started them in how many games in a row it's been, but we've started them in each game and each period because to me, they've just gone out and really established our game for us."

Jake Muzzin stepped up his on-ice work, on Tuesday and during the optional morning skate and will go through neurological testing on Wednesday to be cleared to play going forward. Justin Holl is back from his bout with COVID and paired with Rasmus Sandin, with Timothy Liljegren moving to the bottom pairing with Travis Dermott.

Jack Campbell will return in goal after getting a week's respite following a 6-3 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

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The speculation regarding what path the Leafs will take before the March 21 trade deadline appears to be to keep their options open. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicated earlier this week that Toronto may be interested in Montreal blueliner Ben Chiarot (who is an unrestricted free at the end of the season), but on Tuesday TSN’s Chris Johnston indicated that after giving up a slew of draft picks for rentals last season, Toronto GM Kyle Dubas could be looking for players with term remaining.

The Leafs need to shore up their blueline, specifically on the right side to play with Jake Muzzin or Rasmus Sandin, and the philosophy may be to pursue someone with a year or two left on their current deal in exchange for a high draft pick. That was the case when Toronto acquired Muzzin from Los Angeles in 2019.

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