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New Maple Leafs lineup tested in game against Rangers

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If there’s a side of Auston Matthews’ return to the Maple Leafs on Monday evening that excites Sheldon Keefe, it’s lastly having all components of his new-look energy play displayed.

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“That’s the one space, after all ,the place we need to enhance in significantly wanting again to final season,” the coach mentioned previous to dealing with the New York Rangers. “It’s been an elevated problem not having him in pre-season video games and really minimal apply reps with Auston’s presence.

“We tried to imitate it, preserving Ilya Mikheyev there as a left shot, nevertheless it’s not fairly the identical. We’re anxious to get it collectively at present and construct from there.”

New assistant coach Spencer Carbery drew up a brand new energy play blueprint in the summertime that places Mitch Marner within the bumper place, Matthews and William Nylander on the wings and John Tavares in entrance of the web. However faceoffs, takeaways and ideas are among the many basic enhancements Matthews brings after time without work with wrist surgical procedure.      

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“He makes us a deeper group,” Keefe mentioned. “I assumed everybody did a superb job in his absence, however after at present, everybody slots in a bit bit totally different. We’ve moved the traces round (Alex Kerfoot joins Czechs David Kampf and Ondrej Kase at left wing, bumping Pierre Engvall to the fourth line with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds), however we all know we’re a greater group with Auston.”

Rangers coach Gerard Gallant joked that he wished Matthews had waited yet one more sport for his comeback. New York received its first sport Saturday in Montreal and is now 1-1-1, however absences have piled up.

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To a listing of early season exits, Ryan Strome is sitting out COVID-19 protocol after which Kaapo Kakko went on IR after an higher physique harm towards the Canadiens. That’s two top-six forwards and although a formidable first line stays with Alexis Lafreniere, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, a winger should be discovered for second liners Artemi Panarin and Filip Chytil.

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Gallant wouldn’t title a beginning goalie between Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.

Justin Holl returns to Toronto’s defence after lacking Saturday’s win over Ottawa with a foul chilly. That may put Timothy Liljegren again within the stands, whereas Michael Amadio sits his first sport with Matthews’ return. Free from wage cap constraints, the membership can use Michael Hutchinson as back-up to Jack Campbell.

After greater than 70 common season, playoff and pre-season video games towards the identical six Canadian groups relationship again to January, the Rangers are the primary American facet Toronto has confronted.

“They’re totally different,” quipped Keefe. “However they’ve a steadiness of veterans and younger guys who’re very proficient and expert. You possibly can see a few of the similarities that Gerard introduced over from Vegas. Forecheck and strain are a giant a part of it, attacking the web.

“There’s much more preparation since you’re familiarizing your self once more. Final yr I spent far much less time watching groups (outdoors the North Division). It’s a welcome likelihood for our employees, to present them totally different tasks to have a look at.”

lhornby@postmedia.com

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