Buffalo Sabres wary of Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner’s takeaway talent
The Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres held optional skates at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.
Mitch Marner posted a career-high five points the last time he faced the Buffalo Sabres.
“He’s a competitor,” said Sabres winger Alex Tuch, who’s expected to return from an eight-game injury absence. “You can see it each and every night. He hates, not losing in general, but just losing puck battles. He hates losing a shift and that’s something that I got to give him a lot of credit for. I love to compete against a guy like that. He’s not chippy. He’s not cheap. He’ll go in and he’ll battle against anybody.”
Marner’s relentless approach was on display once again Saturday. With the Leafs trailing the Oilers 3-1 in the second period, Marner created instant offence with a couple sneaky steals. The all-star winger leads the NHL in takeaways.
“He reads the play really well, but it’s his tenacity,” Tuch said. “He’s got a lot of strips from behind. He’s not the fastest player in the league, but he really is able to continue to press on, and as soon as you hesitate and don’t know he’s behind you, he’s going to pick that puck off and go the other way. It leads to a lot offence on their side. I know a lot of guys on that team really like playing with him – not only for his of his abilities with the puck, but his ability to take the puck away and create transition and create turnovers.”
Sam Lafferty, who is five games into his Leafs career, is certainly enjoying life on Marner’s side.
“He just reads the way so well and he skates so well that you might think you have a step on him or a passing lane’s there, but he jumps on it and takes it away,” said the centre, who was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 27. “I’m really impressed, like, how much energy he brings every single day. Before the games, during the game, the way he plays, it’s like he never runs out of juice. It’s really impressive and I think everyone feeds off it.”
What’s he like before games?
“He’s just buzzing, you know, the same way as on the ice,” said Lafferty. “He’s loud. He’s a vocal guy and he brings the jam for us.”
Marner leads the Leafs with 83 points and is currently lining up beside Auston Matthews on the top unit.
“They all have hockey sense,” said Sabres coach Don Granato of Toronto’s stars. “When combined together, they can think very fast, very quick, especially off of turnovers, which we fed a couple times already this year.”
The Leafs have outscored the Sabres 11-5 in a pair of wins this season.
“We played a little too loose the first couple times,” Granato said when the previous games were raised. “We’re aware of what you just mentioned and have to adjust accordingly to work to minimize that. They’re an explosive, prolific offensive team, so you can play very well against them and still give up goals.”
ContentId(1.1930983): Power, Sabres will look to keep it simple against tenacious Marner
Noel Acciari will be reunited with his wife and two young kids – ages two and a half and 11 months – before Monday’s game.
“They fly in today,” the 31-year-old forward said with a big smile. “I’ve definitely missed them … just excited to see them.”
Acciari was acquired from the St. Louis Blues along with Ryan O’Reilly on Feb. 17.
“I’m trying to get my bearings,” he said. “I’ve played here, but there’s certain things I haven’t found yet. Like, I’m looking for restaurants and dinner spots. But it’s still early and we’ve been on the road a bit.”
Acciari is quickly becoming a fan favourite because of his gritty style and fun nickname. He’s been dubbed “Cookie” because of his love for the snack. One fan brought a sign bearing the Sesame Street character Cookie Monster to Saturday’s game.
“It’s awesome,” said Acciari. “They accepted my love for cookies and it’s showing out there. The fans have been great, welcoming. This whole organization, everyone, the city has been great to me, my family, and it makes it a lot easier for me to play my game and do what I do.”
Acciari scored twice in Saturday’s win over the Oilers. His sound defensive play was also key. Keefe deployed the Matthews line against Connor McDavid to start the game, but with his team trailing, Sheldon Keefe changed the matchup and asked Acciari, David Kampf and Zach Aston-Reese to soak up some shifts against the game’s most dynamic player.
“All of the sudden I needed to get Auston a little more free and get our best offensive people playing against their third and fourth lines and fifth and sixth defencemen and all that,” the coach said. “So, in order to do that, especially against that calibre of player, you need to have other guys you can trust to get you through that match-up.”
Acciari held his own during four minutes and 28 seconds of ice time against McDavid with shots being split 3-3 between the teams, per NaturalStatTrick.com.
“That, to me, is where the biggest impact is felt,” Keefe said of Acciari’s addition.
With only 11 forwards dressed, Keefe mixed and matched throughout the night, but Acciari’s line remained intact.
“Our line has a mix of everything, so we’re going to give you something every night,” Acciari promised. “The three of us, we’ve meshed well. It’s simple and we know what we’re going to do and that makes it easy to play together.”
ContentId(1.1930921): Acciari on Leafs Nation: ‘They accept my love for cookies’
Keefe is open to sticking with the 11 forward and seven defencemen alignment in the playoffs.
“We’ve played some of our best hockey with 11 and seven,” he pointed out. “We might discover through this that we might be better with 11 and seven. We’ll see how it goes. It’s important that we’re not just locked into 12 and six. While 12 and six is the most comfortable situation, it might not be the best one. It’s important we give it some time and be smart with how we manage it the rest of the way.”
After adding Luke Schenn from Vancouver and Erik Gustafsson from Washington, Toronto is now carrying nine defencemen. In an effort to keep everyone involved, the Leafs have dressed seven in three of the last four games.
“It’s not the most comfortable thing, because they have to be on their toes and coaches have got to be making way more decisions and managing the bench far differently,” Keefe said. “Usually you’d say, ‘Auston, your line is going’ and now you’re generally calling three names instead of just the one. You got to try and be on top of it a little bit quicker.”
“It’s a different challenge,” agreed defenceman Timothy Liljegren. “You don’t play as regularly and play with different guys. It’s something you adjust to … When you’re playing regularly you’re always, like, in that mode, but when you’re on the bench you have to focus in your head and stay engaged that way.”
The forwards, meanwhile, are getting more ice time.
“It’s usually a little bit more ice, so it kind of gets you into it,” said Lafferty. “You just got to be used to playing with some different match-ups here and there. I don’t mind it. It’s been effective. It’s just paying attention and talking to your linemates and making sure you’re changing for the right guy at the right time.”
“The biggest thing is you’re managing the energy level of the guys,” said Keefe, “because you’re doubling up guys at different times, especially when you’re trying to have some continuity.”
Keefe feels the 11-and-seven alignment can also throw off the opposition.
“You could see some of the advantages to it offensively when the other team is trying to match your rhythm with their D pairs and their matchups. You can really mess with that a little bit. They’re not sure what’s coming next.”
And it’s not like this is some foreign concept.
“The Tampa Bay Lightning went 11 and seven through two Stanley Cup runs,” Keefe highlighted. “We’ve got way more depth on defence than we’ve ever had. We have more depth on forward as well, so we have more guys who can take on more responsibilities.”
ContentId(1.1930881): Dressing seven D keeps Leafs on their toes; Keefe may keep it for playoffs
Matthews has potted goals in consecutive outings for the first time since scoring in four straight games from Jan. 8-19. He’ll face a familiar foe on Monday as Craig Anderson gets the start for Buffalo. Matthews has scored 13 goals in 16 games against Anderson, including four during his historic NHL debut.
Anderson, 41, is the oldest player in the NHL.
“His situational awareness is what you would expect if you have a guy that’s studied it for 20 years in the position,” gushed Granato. “He’s just so aware of every shooter’s options and any option in a certain situation and that’s helped him prolong his career.”
“He’s unbelievable at reading the play,” said Tuch. “He’s not the most athletic guy. He’s not the most young and agile guy, but each and every night he shows up and he works … He battles each and every night.”
The Sabres have leaned on Anderson’s experience as they try and stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“I’ll ask him to speak in front of the team and he has tremendous perspective which he’s gained through his career and life and [he] offers that well,” said Granato.
Matthews, meanwhile, is riding a wave of confidence after coming out on top against McDavid and the Oilers.
“It’s always fun going against great players and he’s at the top of our game,” Matthews said on Saturday night. “You always got to be ready to play a guy like him because he’s always on. I thought we did a decent enough job … for the most part we did a pretty good job of keeping him to the outside as much as possible.”
ContentId(1.1930990): Leafs Ice Chips: Anderson starts as Matthews goes for goal streak
Keefe says Schenn is flying to Toronto on Monday afternoon. The 33-year-old spent the last week in Vancouver where he and his wife welcomed their third child on Friday.
Projected Leafs lineup for Monday’s game:
Kerfoot – Matthews – Marner
Bunting – Tavares – Nylander
Jarnkrok – Lafferty
Aston-Reese – Kampf – Acciari
Rielly – Brodie
McCabe – Holl
Giordano – Liljegren
Hab posts video showing frustration with punishment for Bruin – CTV News Montreal
Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Hoffman took to social media Friday to vent his frustration with a decision by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
“So I’ve gotten a two-game suspension for cross-checking a guy in the back of the helmet. A full-blown intentional cross-check to the face? One game. Hmm,” a bloody-chinned Hoffman says in a video shared online.
Hoffman is referring to the one-game suspension given to Boston Bruins winger A.J. Greer, who cross-checked Hoffman in the face during the first period of the Bruins-Canadiens game Thursday night.
The incident occurred after the players slashed each other’s sticks leading up to a faceoff.
Greer was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct. Hoffman was able to complete the game sporting a bloodied face and a mask covering the injured area.
In addition to the suspension, Greer will forfeit US$4,121.62 in salary.
The Canadiens lost the game 4-2.
With files from The Canadian Press.
Senators' playoff push takes huge hit with Chychrun lower-body injury – CBC Sports
Senators defenceman Jakob Chychrun will be sidelined multiple weeks due to a lower-body injury, head coach D.J. Smith told TSN 1200 in Ottawa on Saturday.
Smith also announced forward Ridly Greig will miss the remainder of the regular season due to a sternum injury.
Both players were injured during the Senators’ 7-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Chychrun did not participate in practice Friday, and Smith told reporters that the defenceman “tugged something there a little bit, we’ll see how he reacts to treatment here.”
The Senators (35-32-5) have 10 games remaining in the regular season, which ends April 13 at Buffalo. Ottawa is five points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference entering play Saturday.
Chychrun, who turns 25 on Friday, has recorded five points in 12 games with the Senators since being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on March 1. He had seven goals and 28 points in 36 contests this season with the Coyotes.
Chychrun has 62 goals and 175 points in 385 career outings with Arizona and Ottawa since being selected by the Coyotes with the 16th overall pick of the 2016 NHL draft.
Greig, 20, has six points in 16 games this season, his first in the NHL. He was drafted by the Senators with the 28th overall pick in 2020.
Canadiens Forward Mike Hoffman Calls Out Department Of Safety
Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Hoffman is not a happy camper.
The 33-year-old forward took to Instagram to discuss the recent one-game suspension of Boston Bruins forward A.J. Greer.
Hoffman, freshly decorated with a gnarly battle scar after the ridiculous cross-check by Greer during Thursday night’s matchup between the Canadiens and the Bruins, expressed his concern with the lack of consistency from the NHL’s Department Of Player Safety.
“I’ve gotten a two-game suspension for cross-checking a guy in the back of the helmet,” said a wound-muffled Hoffman. “A full-blown, intentional cross-check to the face? One game. Hmmm.”
TALK YOUR SHIT MIKE 🗣️🗣️🗣️ pic.twitter.com/cPaXmjUQrY
— Habs Fan TV (@habsfantv_) March 24, 2023
Hoffman’s message was clear: the standard has dropped in recent years, especially if we compare the decision made on Friday to the decision made in 2016 when Hoffman was suspended for two games after his cross-check rode up Logan Couture’s back and hit him in the helmet.
That’s not to say Hoffman did not deserve a suspension. If anything, the ruling at the time was a step toward erring on the side of caution when brain injuries were in play, putting an onus on player safety in a spot that oftentimes forgets about the well-being of its employees.
Greer’s cross-check, on the other hand, was about as blatant as it gets, leaving a trail of blood behind the Canadiens forward as he quickly exited the ice.
There was some tomfoolery prior to the faceoff, perhaps even a little kerfuffle, but there’s no justifying a blatant cross-check which resulted in an injury.
By handing down a one-game suspension, the Department of Player Safety deemed Greer’s attack three times less severe than accidentally spitting on an opponent, which carries a three-game suspension in the NHL.
Hoffman returned to the game in the third period sporting a full birdcage, and though he did not miss significant time, he clearly did not appreciate the lack of safety provided by the NHL’s Department Of Misnomers.
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