Defense Line Changes: Leafs Game Preview 30

After a hard-fought game with many unlucky bounces, the Leafs lost in regulation after almost a full month without a regulation loss. The Leafs will look to rebound tonight against a Sabres team that hasn’t met expectations so far and is coming off of a humiliating loss to the Blue Jackets. The Leafs have two games left before the Christmas break and will look to finish strong heading into the break. The forward lines remain intact, but let’s take a look at the changes on the back end below.


Leafs Projected Lineup

Three Things to Look Out For

Samsonov

It wouldn’t be a bold statement to say that Ilya Samsonov’s play so far this season has been subpar. It’s unfortunate to see him seemingly not look like his normal self, and it’s clear that this poor play has affected him mentally. With that said, Samsonov has potential as a goalie, especially when he’s playing a more consistent game. Samsonov is being given chances to win the net back, and he needs to start capitalizing on those opportunities because, as of right now, not only has Woll been pushing for playing time, but Jones has, too. The coaching staff is giving Samsonov another start tonight, so hopefully Samsonov can relax and go back to the basics to help the Leafs to a win tonight and hopefully start building some confidence.

Benoit

Simon Benoit has been a solid addition to the Leafs and is playing a physical game while protecting the net. Benoit and Lagesson are now both battling for a lineup slot, with the lineup starting to get more healthy, and it seems like, for now, Keefe will be rotating them both in and out of the lineup. Benoit needs to keep his game simple, but has looked like a solid player for the Leafs who could be worth keeping after this season. Benoit is a restricted free agent after this season and will look to earn another contract and, hopefully, a full-time NHL spot as well. Keep an eye on Benoit tonight as he draws in after sitting for a game.

Liljegren

Liljegren has been moved to the top pairing with Morgan Rielly for tonight’s game against the Sabres. It’s interesting to see, as Brodie has typically been stapled to Rielly when healthy this season. Rielly has looked great this season, and his defensive game has taken a jump, so the pairing of Rielly and Liljegren has the potential to be much more effective than it was in the short stints we saw last season. Liljegren is a skilled young player who is finding his way in the NHL and should be given opportunities to take that next step, so being back on the top pairing is a perfect opportunity for Liljegren to try and take a hold of. Keep an eye on Liljegren tonight as he looks to move the puck effectively. .

Tonight’s game starts at 7 p.m. EST on Sportsnet!

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