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Maple Leafs benefiting from Marner’s new shooting mentality – Sportsnet.ca

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For three winters now, pass-first Mitchell Marner has vowed to adopt a shooter’s brain, knowing full well that becoming a double threat would keep goalies guessing and the Toronto Maple Leafs winning.

“You’ve got to respect both the shot and the pass option,” goaltender Frederik Andersen explains. “The better you can be at both, the more it’s going to help you.”

Sounds simple enough.

But on a night when your team has coughed up 2-0 and 3-1 leads on the road, when the game is tied, and the tide has turned, and your centreman plants one on your tape with under eight minutes left… you still gotta bury the sucker.

Which is precisely what Marner did Tuesday in Calgary, drifting into a quiet space in the high slot, pounding a one-timer past Jacob Markstrom, and delivering Toronto its sixth nail-biting victory in eight games.

“I’ve really been working on that shot with Matts. If I can try to find that shot more, I know Matts can find me there,” said Marner.

For years now, Auston Matthews and Marner have routinely been the final two Leafs to glide off the ice during pre-game skate, using every last second of warm-up to feed each other one-timers until the buzzer sounds, the lights dim, and the music stops.

“It’s just trying to get it off my stick quickly and on to the net, for a chance on net, for a rebound or something,” Marner said. “I’m trying to get more of a shot mentality in there, trying to be more of a threat. It was a great dish by Matty, and that’s a big goal.”

Indeed.

Marner’s strike completed an eight-point swing in the North Division standings in favour of the Leafs over the Flames in the rivals’ first two-game miniseries.

Marner’s fifth multi-point effort and second game-winner also vaulted the winger into a tie with Connor McDavid for the NHL points lead with 12.

Critics may be quick to point out that Marner has a league-high two empty-netters or that his 31.3 per cent shooting percentage is unsustainable. Fair. But there is little doubt Marner has embarked on a mission to make his impact felt after a disappointing experience in the 2020 post-season bubble.

“A real differentiator for the true great players, the truly elite players of the league: they’re not satisfied,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. “When you see Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, William Nylander out on the ice every day, practising and working on different things and spending their off-season trying to add different layers to the game, if you’re a player that is not at their level, there’s no excuses.”

Instrumental to both the Leafs’ top power-play and penalty-kill units, Marner has seen his average ice time climb to 23:33, tops among all NHL forwards.

In effort to convert his muffin to a missile, Marner has bulked up his body and stiffened his stick flex. He’s also tried to rethink his options when he gets within striking distance.

“The last two years I’ve been trying to work on it. I feel like it’s a mentality thing,” Marner said. “I feel like I really want to try and make an extra play most of the time, but this year around, trying to be more of a threat. More of a guy that can be a more consistent shooter on net, kind of change things up on goalies — and that’s what I did tonight.”

Andersen faces Marner’s shot daily in practice and believes it’s an “underrated” weapon, noting that placement can trump power.

“He’s good at picking spots and being pretty elusive and tricky about where he’s going to go,” Andersen said. “He wants to be more than an incredible passer and playmaker. I know he wants to add to his game, and I think he’s done that throughout the years I’ve played with him.”

Much of the juicy morning chatter around the Leafs’ 4-3 win will be about Jake Muzzin flipping the game puck into Matthew Tkachuk’s logo at the buzzer and Tkachuk blowing a gasket in response to the unwelcome souvenir.

But Muzzin’s take-that gesture would not have been possible had the Maple Leafs not received contributions from their bottom six — taxi-squad graduate Travis Boyd notched his first as a Leaf, and Wayne Simmonds is now running a two-game goal train — or a double dose of the Matthews-Marner connection.

“It just looks like he’s flying,” Morgan Rielly says of Marner. “I know he’s pretty motivated, and he’s in a good place right now. He’s just having fun with it, and it’s great to be around him at the rink when he’s feeling like that.”

New Leafs T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian have both had their eyes opened by Marner’s elite ability to make reads and contribute defensively.

“So, he’s the total package,” Bogosian says.

Even higher praise for Marner came from Leafs president Brendan Shanahan when addressing the club’s season-ticket holders in a Leafs Nation Network interview earlier this month.

“He’s got an energy that the players all love. He laughs at himself. He’s self-deprecating, but he’s also very serious about his job and the pressure that he puts on himself,” Shanahan said.

“He just cares. He cares a lot. This is a guy that I hope plays his entire career in Toronto. And if he does, I have no doubt he will bring us success. And I have no doubt that he’s going to have a statue outside of the arena one day.”

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Canadiens @ Jets: Game thread, rosters, lines, and how to watch – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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Montreal Canadiens @ Winnipeg Jets

How to watch

Start time: 10:00 PM EST / 7:00 PM PST
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live, Sportsnet Now

The Canadiens could get discouraged by getting handed another loss on Thursday night, surrendering the final five goals of the game to see a 3-1 lead become a 6-3 loss. Or they could latch on to the fact that they played a solid opening 20 minutes, when everything Dominique Ducharme had instructed them to do before the game had a positive effect as they headed back to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.

It was surely an easy video session for the coaches to prepare the team to face the Jets again tonight. Replicate the first period, avoid what you did in the final 40 at all costs.

In terms of on-ice work, the Canadiens spent all of today’s practice working on the power play. Given that it has slipped from being in first place early in the season to now 18th, some work was necessary. We’ll see tonight if the effort will pay off so the man advantage can be a difference in the game.

By the sounds of things, they’ll be trying to get things turned about without Josh Anderson, who could miss his first start of the year. Expect Jake Evans to draw back in for a formation that looks more like what the team had ben running before the last game.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Jonathan Drouin Nick Suzuki Tyler Toffoli
Tomas Tatar Phillip Danault Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen Jesperi Kotkaniemi Joel Armia
Paul Byron Jake Evans Corey Perry

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Ben Chiarot Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak Alexander Romanov

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Jake Allen Carey Price

Injured: Josh Anderson
Scratched: Victor Mete

Winnipeg Jets projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Pierre-Luc Dubois Mark Scheifele Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor Paul Stastny Nikolaj Ehlers
Andrew Copp Adam Lowry Mason Appleton
Mathieu Perreault Nate Thompson Trevor Lewis

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Derek Forbort Neal Pionk
Josh Morrissey Nathan Beaulieu
Sami Niku Dylan DeMelo

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Connor Hellebuyck Laurent Brossoit

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Canadiens Game Day: Dominique Ducharme trying to put his stamp on team – Montreal Gazette

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New head coach has work cut out after being thrown into deep end without a life jacket or a single practice before his first game in charge.

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Dominique Ducharme was thrown into the deep end without a life jacket as new head coach of the Canadiens.

Ducharme didn’t even have a chance to hold one full practice before his first game behind the bench, Thursday night’s 6-3 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg, one day after taking over from Claude Julien

It would have made much more sense for GM Marc Bergevin to have made the coaching move early last week when the Canadiens had a six-day break in the schedule and Ducharme would have had time to make the changes he wants to put in place.

Ducharme had a morning skate before Thursday’s game, a practice on Friday and another morning skate Saturday before the Canadiens face the Jets again Saturday night in Winnipeg (10 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Thursday night’s game was the first of 18 games in 34 days for the Canadiens through the end of March, so there won’t be much practice time for Ducharme. As a result, his morning skates will have to be mini practices.

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After Saturday’s morning skate, Ducharme said his morning skates won’t be as long and won’t have the same physical intensity of a practice, but there will always be a reason why they’re doing something on the ice, whether it be little details in the system or structure with and without the puck.

“Every time we’ll be going on the ice, everything we’ll do will be a reflection of something we want to work on,” Ducharme said in a video conference Saturday morning. “Something specific to the game.”

The Canadiens had a strong start to Thursday night’s game, taking a 2-0 lead in the first period and they were leading 3-1 midway through the second period before things fell apart. The Canadiens are winless in their last four games (0-2-2) and are in fourth place in the North Division with a 9-6-4 record after getting off to a 7-1-2 start to the season.

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The Calgary Flames (10-10-2) beat the Ottawa Senators 6-3 Saturday afternoon to move into a tie with the Canadiens for fourth place. The Canadiens hold three games in hand.

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When asked what he didn’t see from his team Thursday night that he’s hoping to see Saturday night, Ducharme said: “There are many things. You know when we played that first game, we had a meeting the night before. We had one morning skate to prepare. We really explained to the guys a few things that we want to focus on right from the get-go. But we had no time to practise. That’s why I didn’t mind our first half of the game.

“With everything that happened before in the last few hours before we played, I didn’t mind how we reacted at first,” Ducharme added. “But we cracked. We got a better idea of why now, the players. They didn’t understand a little bit more. Tonight I’m confident to see those things that we talked about really taking a big step on maybe four or five things that we talked about.”

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Defenceman Ben Chiarot spoke Saturday morning about Ducharme bringing a fresh, new voice to the team.

“He has a certain way that he wants us to play and a little different style and systems,” Chiarot said. “He’s just been instructing us on what he likes to see defensively first and once we get that in place then we can kind of move forward and out with the puck and what we’re doing with the puck. So it’s just been a lot of instruction on how he wants us to defend and I think that’s what you’ve been seeing the last couple of days.”

Jake Allen will be in goal for the Canadiens Saturday night. He has a 4-2-1 record with a 2.14 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. The Canadiens were shut out in both of Allen’s regulation-time losses.

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Anderson doubtful for game

Right-winger Josh Anderson didn’t take part in the morning skate and is doubtful for Saturday night’s game after being injured late in the first period of Thursday night’s game. Anderson appeared to be slew-footed by Jets defenceman Dylan DeMelo and fell awkwardly on his back, suffering a lower-body injury.

“The chances are slim for him to be in the lineup tonight,” Ducharme said about Anderson, who has 9-3-12 totals in 19 games. “He’s still getting treatments and things like that. He’s doubtful tonight.”

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Evans ready to return

Jake Evans will take Anderson’s spot in the lineup if he can’t play after being made a healthy scratch for the first time this season on Thursday night.

“Obviously, you want to be playing every time, but I completely understood,” Evans said about Ducharme’s decision to sit him out. “The explanation I got was just a fresh start and a new way of doing things. One of the biggest things that we talked about the night before the game was just being a good teammate. So that was a big thing for me. I understood and I just wanted to work hard and get my chance to get back in the lineup.”

Evans has 2-1-3 totals and is plus-1 in 18 games while averaging 12:04 of ice time and winning 51.3 per cent of his faceoffs. The Canadiens selected him in the seventh round (207th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft.

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“To be honest, I think my approach every game is to play like it could be my last and if I have a bad game I could be out and never get that opportunity again,” the 24-year-old Evans said. “So it’s never really been about who’s coming up behind me or who could be taking my spot. It’s about me and not throwing away an opportunity like this.”

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Coaching differences

Evans was asked about the personality differences between the 60-year-old Julien and and the 47-year-old Ducharme as coaches.

“I think they were both great,” he said. “Claude’s been giving me a lot of opportunity and it was great to have him. I guess sometimes you just need a fresh face. Dom’s been a very vocal guy and I think he’s talked with everyone a few times so far. So that’s been good to get that feedback.”

Ducharme, who joined the Canadiens as an assistant coach before the 2018-19 season, has made a point to talk with all his players one-on-one since taking over as head coach.

“I’m trying to talk to 24 guys every day and sometimes it’s just asking how he is and it takes five seconds, 10 seconds,” he said. “Sometimes it’s about the game, it’s about details, it’s about the last game, it’s about progression, many things. We have a way of playing together that we’re putting in place. Within that, every individual here, there’s a reason they’re NHL players and we want them to bring those strengths to our team. But within our structure or our philosophy.”

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Working with Armia

There are games when Joel Armia looks like he should be a star in the NHL and other nights when the 6-foot-3, 212-pound right-winger is the Invisible Man.

You have to wonder if the 27-year-old realizes how good he could be. There’s a reason why the Buffalo Sabres selected him in the first round (16th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft. He’s the complete package of size, speed, skill and shot. With his size, it’s too bad he doesn’t have a little bit of Brendan Gallagher or Paul Byron in him when it comes to compete level.

Armia scored the first two goals in Thursday night’s game, his first points in seven games since missing seven games with a concussion. Armia has 4-3-7 totals in 12 games.

“Army’s got world-class qualities as a player,” Ducharme said. “You guys saw him … he’s got good size, his skill sets are really, really good. It’s about being consistent and we started working together, me and him. There’s a few things in his game that when he’s consistent doing and when he’s going to do that every time then it’s going to reflect on being that good night in and night out.”

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Weber and Chiarot struggling

After a good start to the season, captain Shea Weber and Chiarot have been struggling as the team’s No. 1 defence pair.

Weber and Chiarot were both minus-2 in Thursday night’s game. Weber has been a minus player in seven of the last eight games and is a team-worst minus-2 for the season, while Chiarot is minus-1.

“I think when we’re defending hard, being hard to play against, moving the puck quick up to the forwards, I think that’s when we’re at our best,” Chiarot said. “Obviously, when the team’s not doing well it’s a reflection of everybody. It’s not one pair, or one line, or one guy. It’s everyone needs to be better when the team’s not winning and me and Shea are no different in that aspect.

“I think at this point it’s so important playing every other day you can’t be reflecting or feeling sorry for yourself on the losses,” Chiarot added. “You have to move forward and you have to be positive. Move forward to the next game and not be carrying the last game with you, especially after a couple of losses. It can weigh you down and slow you down. I think what’s important for our group right now is moving on and just focusing on the next game and not thinking about what’s happened over the last 10 days, two weeks, and remain positive and come out and just play like we know we can because we know we have a good team.”

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The lines

Here’s how the forward lines and defence pairings are expected to look for the Canadiens Saturday night if Anderson doesn’t play:

Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Suzuki – Toffoli
Lehkonen – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Byron – Evans – Perry

Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Kulak – Romanov

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What’s next?

The Canadiens will fly back to Montreal on Sunday afternoon and have an 11 a.m. practice scheduled for Monday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.

The Canadiens will play their next three games at the Bell Centre. The Ottawa Senators will be the visitors on Tuesday (7 p.m., TSN2, TSN5, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), followed by two games against the Jets on Thursday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and Saturday (7 p.m., SNE, SNW, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

The Canadiens have a 3-5-0 record at the Bell Centre this season.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

  1. Carey Price and defenceman Shea Weber are the two highest-paid players on the team with the goalie carrying a $10.5-million salary-cap hit and the captain earning $7.857 million.

    Stu Cowan: Canadiens are running out of scapegoats for their problems

  2. Feb 21, 2021; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen (34) makes a save in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    Canadiens Notebook: Jake Allen will be in goal for Habs Saturday night

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Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews still considered day-to-day with hand/wrist injury – TSN

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Auston Matthews skated for about 35 minutes this morning in Edmonton, but didn’t shoot the puck. Toronto’s top-line centre will miss tonight’s game and is still considered day-to-day with a hand/wrist injury.  

“It’s not new for us,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe. “We’ve already played a game without Auston and against the Oilers.”

With Matthews sidelined, the Leafs beat the Oilers 4-2 on Jan. 22 in Toronto. 

“We just played hard,” Keefe recalled. “We were resilient. Our power play was good for us. You know, everybody just steps up and plays a little bit more and a little bit better. Whether we had Auston or not that was going to be a requirement in a game like this here tonight with an Edmonton team that’s playing very well and is very confident.”

The Oilers have won 11 of 13 games. The hot streak started with an overtime victory against the Leafs on Jan. 30.   

“They’re a team that’s firing right now,” said defenceman Jake Muzzin, who returns to the Leafs lineup after missing two games with a facial fracture. “They’ve got good goaltending, the defence is playing well and the stars are playing hard so it’s going to be a challenge.”

When Matthews was out in that game last month, John Tavares and Mitch Marner were reunited and that will be the case again tonight with Joe Thornton slotting in on left wing. 

“Just three really good players,” Keefe said. “Putting John and Mitch together, they got a lot of history, have played together well. They’ve done it this season and done it in previous seasons. And having Joe available today will give our whole group a boost.”

Thornton missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. 

Matthews out for tonight’s game against Oilers

Auston Matthews did skate this morning but Sheldon Keefe revealed that he will not play tonight against the Oilers and is still day-to-day with a hand injury. However Joe Thornton, Jake Muzzin and Jack Campbell will all be back in the lineup.

With Matthews out, Alexander Barabanov is in line for a big opportunity. He skated with Alexander Kerfoot and William Nylander on the second line at Friday’s practice and also got reps on the power play.

“He just looks way more confident with the puck,” observed Keefe. “He’s getting out of our zone and through the neutral zone a lot better … when we look at scoring-chance generation, he’s been among the leaders for us in the last couple games so we want to look to see if he can continue to build upon that.”

The KHL import produced just two shots in his first seven games and sat as a healthy scratch for two weeks earlier this month. Barabanov has fired seven shots on net in the last two games. 

“Continued development we’re looking to see from him are in those areas where the puck comes up the wall and he has to make a play in the defensive zone,” said Keefe.

“Bears has had a great attitude the whole time,” said veteran forward Jason Spezza. “I think you’ll see him slowly adapt as the year goes along. It’s not an easy transition.”

Matthews isn’t the only key Leafs forward, who’s been playing through an injury. Zach Hyman has missed two of the last four games following some painful shot blocks off his foot. 

“It’s not easy,” Keefe acknowledged. “I know he’s been going through a lot of discomfort and has missed a little bit of time here and there, but he has been able to get through it and will be fine to play today.”

Hyman didn’t take any reps during the special teams drills yesterday at practice remaining on the bench to chat with assistant athletic therapist Jon Geller.

“We all know when he puts the jersey on he plays the same way no matter what and that’s what we’ve come to expect,” said Keefe. 

Hyman’s ability to play effectively through the pain – he logged 21 minutes and picked up an assist Wednesday – has allowed Keefe to build a third line that has the makings of a strong energy unit. Hyman skated with Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev at practice yesterday.

“It’s a lot of speed, a lot of tenacity on the puck,” Keefe said. “We like it on the road especially where match-ups are difficult … It was effective for us in Montreal.” 

The Matthews-less Leafs beat the Oilers last month thanks to two power-play goals including the game winner from Tavares. But Toronto’s power play enters this game on a cold streak having gone 0/11 in two games against Calgary this week. 

“I don’t think we’ve been as sharp and as deliberate in delivering pucks to the net,” said Spezza. “We’re playing the same teams over and over so similar to a playoff series you’re going to see teams adapt. It’s up to us to be dynamic in changing things up, but also maintaining that structure that gives you success. It’s a little bit of a tightrope where you don’t want to change too much, but you have to adapt night to night.”

Connor McDavid scored a highlight-reel goal on the power play during the Leafs last game in Edmonton. The end-to-end rush left the Leafs shaking their heads. 

“We could’ve defended it better,” Hyman said after that game. “I was the first guy up, I got to take away his speed a little bit.”

“I could push him a certain direction better,” defenceman Justin Holl said that night.

‘That’s one you shrug off’: Leafs react to McDavid’s highlight-reel goal

Connor McDavid added to his highlight reel of great goals with an end-to-end rush on the power play Saturday night. It was an incredible individual effort by the NHL’s scoring leader, but forward Zach Hyman, defenceman Justin Holl and goalie Frederik Andersen all believe they could’ve done things differently to thwart the Oilers captain. Auston Matthews likes how the team reacted after McDavid’s magical moment.

McDavid has three goals and four assists in four games against Toronto this season. What’s the key against the NHL’s points leader tonight? 

“It’s more of a five-man effort on the ice and everyone’s trying to stay above him and not give him as much space as he wants,” said Holl. “I think that’ll be a major key tonight and try to stop him before he gets going.”

​With McDavid and Leon Draisaitl anchoring different lines, Holl is guaranteed a tough match-up any time he steps on the ice tonight. Draisaitl​, the reigning Hart Trophy winner, has really beaten up on the Leafs of late with points in eight straight against Toronto (six goals and six assists in that stretch). 

“I try and look at the times I’ve had success against really any elite player in the past and it comes down to doing what I do well, which is keeping tight gaps, first and foremost,” Holl said of his preparation. “It’s easier said than done against dynamic players like this, but that’s going to be the major key for me and trying to kill plays before they begin.”

Leafs’ Holl looks to kill McDavid’s plays before they happen

Justin Holl says it has to be a team effort to shut down Connor McDavid and for him personally, he tries to keep tight gaps against top end talent and that helps him kill plays before they even begin.

Jack Campbell will be making his first start since sustaining a leg injury on Jan. 24. 

“I was looking over his shoulder on the plane yesterday, because he was watching some film, and I was laughing because on every clip he makes the save and he tapped someone that’s close to him,” said Holl. “Like, it doesn’t even matter, it could be me and I didn’t even do anything on the play, but he gives you a shin tap, which is funny. It’s fun to play in front of someone like that. He does exude positivity.” 

Campbell has made one previous appearance against the Oilers on March 26, 2019 allowing three goals, one to McDavid and two to Draisaitl, in relief.

Frederik Andersen skated again this morning and remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. 

Mike Smith missed the previous games against the Leafs this season due to injury, but is expected to get the start tonight. His ability to handle the puck is a point of emphasis for Toronto. 

“It’s huge,” said Spezza. “Forechecking is a big strength of our group. We feel that on nights that we forecheck well we generate a lot. I’ve played with Smitty at Team Canada stuff and it’s a huge factor. He can break you out quick and leaves the other team getting frustrated and chasing so it’s important we have good dumps on him today and really try and keep the puck out of his hands because he can be like a third defenceman back there.”

Smith adding value beyond the numbers to Oilers this season

Mike Smith has been incredible for the Oilers this season, sporting a 6-0 record, and while the numbers have been off the charts for the 38 year-old, there’s another portion of his game that has brought value to the team. Ryan Rishaug reports.

The Leafs have loaned recently-acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk to the Marlies. 

“Part of our plan here is to get him playing,” Keefe explained. “It was an easy decision to keep him [in Toronto] and get him playing in an environment where he can just really look to find his game, get comfortable in our surroundings and our systems and things like that and in a place where he can find his confidence and not be so concerned about his place in the lineup.”

Defenceman Martin Marincin was also sent to the American Hockey League. Forward Kenny Agostino and defenceman Timothy Liljegren were called up to join the taxi squad.  

Galchenyuk determined to show Leafs he deserves this opportunity

After being drafted third overall by the Canadiens and posting some successful years in Montreal, which includes a 30-goal season back in 2015-16, Alex Galchenyuk has bounced around the league trying to regain his scoring touch. Now with the Leafs, his sixth NHL team, Galchenyuk is determined to show he deserves this opportunity.

Projected Leafs lines for Saturday’s game in Edmonton: 

F

Thornton – Tavares – Marner 
Barabanov – Kerfoot – Nylander 
Mikheyev – Engvall – Hyman 
Petan – Boyd – Spezza 

D

Rielly – Brodie 
Muzzin – Holl
Dermott – Bogosian 

G

Campbell 
Hutchinson ​

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