HockeyBuzz.com – Mike Augello – Rushing the lines and looking for non-tenants?? Leaves versus ducks

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The Toronto Maple Leafs return home for the first time in three weeks to face the Anaheim Ducks at an empty Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday. The Leafs went 3-2-1 in their six-game road swing and are coming off a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders, but that didn’t stop the coach- leader Sheldon Keefe to stir the pot regarding his forward lines.

During practice this week at the Ford Performance Center, the basic Auston Matthews/Mitch Marner and John Tavares/William Nylander combos were separated. While Matthews and Marner produced consistently on the road trip, that wasn’t the case for the second row, as Tavares had just two points (1G, 1A) in six games and Nylander had three (1G, 2A ) on the road trip.

Matthews skated with wingers Michael Bunting and Ondrej Kase, Tavares found Marner and Ilya Mikheyev, Alex Kerfoot and Nylander moved to the third line with control center David Kampf, and Pierre Engvall lined up with Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds.

“You will see me moving things around to make sure (Kampf) always gets the D-zone starts that I like him to have and sometimes he will step out of that line when there are clashes in the O-zone” , Keefe said. . “We’ve now got Mikheyev, Engvall and Kampf on three different lines as well. There’s a ton of attention on Matthews, Tavares, Marner and Nylander and how they’re spread across three lines, but also Kampf, Engvall and Mikheyev with the how they played. We think these three guys on different lines bring us a lot. These guys are really established for us. We started them in how many games in a row, but we’ve pitched them in every game and every period because for me they just came out and really set our game for us.”

Jake Muzzin stepped up his work on the ice Tuesday and during optional morning practice and will undergo neurological tests Wednesday to be cleared to play in the future. Justin Holl is back from his battle with COVID and paired with Rasmus Sandin, with Timothy Liljegren moving down with Travis Dermott.

Jack Campbell will return in goal after getting a week off following a 6-3 loss to Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

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Speculation regarding the path the Leafs will take before the March 21 trade deadline appears to be to keep their options open. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicated earlier this week that Toronto might be interested in Montreal defenseman Ben Chiarot (who is an unrestricted free at the end of the season), but on Tuesday TSN’s Chris Johnston indicated that after dropping With a slew of draft picks for rentals last season, Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas may be on the lookout for players whose terms have yet to run.

The Leafs need to solidify their blue line, especially on the right side to play Jake Muzzin or Rasmus Sandin, and the philosophy may be to pursue someone with a year or two left on their current contract in exchange for a pick of high draft. Such was the case when Toronto acquired Muzzin from Los Angeles in 2019.

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