The Leafs and Blues face each other tonight as both teams return from the holiday break. St. Louis hasn’t had a great season so far, sitting with a 16-16-2 record, while the Leafs have had an impressive season sitting at 21-7-6. As we get closer to the trade deadline, Dubas is watching the Leafs squad closely to determine the moves he wants to make. At the same time, the current players are looking to become key pieces to the team’s playoff hopes. Every game is important.
Leafs Projected Lineup
Bunting – Matthews – Nylander
Järnkrok – Tavares – Marner
Kerfoot – Kämpf – Engvall
Aston-Reese – Holmberg – Anderson
Giordano – Holl
Benn – Liljegren
Brodie – Timmins
Blues Projected Lineup
Saad – O’Reilly – Kyrou
Buchnevich – Thomas – Tarasenko
Barbashev – Schenn – Acciari
Toropchenko – Brown – Leivo
Leddy – Parayko
Rosen – Faulk
Mikkola – Bortuzzo
Three Things to Look Out For
If you told people that 34 games into the season, Nylander would lead the Leafs in goals, I’m not sure many people would believe you. Well, it’s true, and Nylander is on pace for career highs in goals and points. While his offensive output has grown this season, his defensive game has also taken massive steps as well. I do see him as someone who the Leafs have a part of their long-term plans, and he will be key to the Leafs’ success this season.
With Dryden Hunt knocking on the door, it adds extra competition to the Leafs’ fourth line. There is some speculation that in Hunt, they’re hoping to have another player similar to Aston Reese. Hunt will likely draw into the lineup soon, so Anderson needs to play a hard-fought game and make the most of his time remaining with the Leafs. I’m sure Anderson is hoping to become the best candidate for a roster slot in case of injury if he is not able to land a spot in the lineup every night.
Holl has had a solid showing this season, even with the increased minutes he has had. With injured players Rielly and Sandin being close to a return, though, his play needs to continue to be solid. Their return will likely push Brodie to the right side again, resulting in Holl, Timmins, Brodie, and Liljegren all on the right. This will enable some of the defensemen to get a rest from night to night, but come playoffs if everyone is healthy, there will be one odd man out. It’s easy to say that could be Timmins just because he’s new, but his impressive play has led to him gaining more opportunities, including time on the second powerplay unit. Holl now finds himself in competition for a spot on the playoff roster, and his current play becomes increasingly important.
Tonight’s battle between the Blues and Leafs begins at 8:00 pm EST with Samsonov in net for the Leafs on Sportsnet!
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