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After a weekend when members of the “Core Four” registered one assist in losses to Chicago and Pittsburgh, head coach Sheldon Keefe juggled his top two lines for the first time this season at the Ford Performance Centre on Monday.
The struggling duo of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner were split up, with Marner skating with John Tavares and Tyler Bertuzzi, and William Nylander moving up to the top line with Matthews and Matthew Knies.
The M and M boys have noticeably struggled over the last two-plus weeks, with five points (1 goal, 4 assists) and a collective -11 in the last seven games and the hope is that switching combos will jump-start them.
The club is preparing for their second meeting with the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, which is why Ryan Reaves slotted back in on the fourth line with Noah Gregor and David Kampf. Things could get rough against the Panthers, as they did during the second-round series last May.
The Leafs did a bit of cap massaging on Sunday, demoting Simon Benoit, Bobby McMann, and Alex Steeves on Sunday. Steeves appears to be staying with the Marlies, but Benoit and McMann skated with the club on Monday.
The Leafs did their due diligence regarding free agent Patrick Kane, but it appears that three Atlantic Division foes, the Florida Panthers, Detroit Red Wings, and Buffalo Sabres are the leading candidates to land the three-time Cup winner. The 35-year-old is returning from hip reservicing surgery and is looking to play for a contender, but is also looking to sign a multi-year deal for significant money, which would all but rule out most contenders and Toronto.
Sportsnet’s Luke Fox reports that defenseman John Klingberg is seeing a specialist in New York City this week. GM Brad Treliving is expecting a decision on whether Klingberg will have season-ending surgery or try to rehab the injury within days.