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Self-Preservation vs. Quest For 70; Leafs vs. Panthers

April 16, 2024, 5:18 PM ET [579 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have a few things that are set in stone and other that are on their checklist going into back-to-back games in the Sunshine State against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, FL on Tuesday. With the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting on Saturday, the Leafs do not know who their first-round opponent will be and could have a say in who it is.

The Panthers remain one point behind Boston for top spot in the Atlantic after the Bruins 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals. Florida can win the division if they beat the Leafs and Boston loses in regulation/OT/SO to Ottawa, or if the Panthers earn a point and Boston loses in regulation to the Sens. If Toronto or Boston wins, the Leafs will be in Florida for more than a week, as they will finish out the regular season in Tampa on Wednesday and play Games 1 and 2 against the Panthers starting this weekend.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe provided an update on some lineup situations on Monday before departing for Florida. Forwards Max Domi and Bobby McMann will likely not play in either game due to an injury. Calle Jarnkrok’s status for the start of the playoffs is up in the air after his second hand injury. Defenseman Joel Edmundson practiced and is expected to be available for Game 1, but Keefe did not say if the veteran blueliner will play in either game.

Jake McCabe is expected to be in the lineup after taking a puck in the face against Detroit, and Joseph Woll will make the start against the Panthers, but Keefe would not commit on a starter for the season finale against the Lightning on Wednesday. David Alter of the Hockey News believes Martin Jones could get the start, which makes some sense since he has not started since February 22.

Although there has been no confirmation on the lineup against the Panthers, it appears that Auston Matthews will be in the lineup to chase after goal #70 and that the Leafs will play a representative lineup against Florida. The general consensus has been that Toronto should not implement some sort of load management or self-preservation and try to avoid the likely chicanery that the Panthers will pull with the possibility of facing the Leafs in the first round, but those who are saying that will be first people to say “I told you so” if one of Toronto’s key players gets injured in a meaningless game.

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