Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

Tonight the Los Angeles Kings come to town to play the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Kings are in the midst of an odd early season start. They have a poor home record, but a really strong road record. At home, they are 1-2-2; but, on the road, they are a perfect 4-0-0. In their last home game, they lost to the undefeated Vegas Golden Knights in a shootout. 

Kings head coach Todd McLellan sees this game as one of the team’s biggest challenges. As he notes, the Maple Leafs “are the measuring stick, obviously, they’ve earned that right.”

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For the Maple Leafs, it will be their first game on home ice after a long, but successful, 3-1-1 road trip. In their last game, although they lost 3-2 in overtime to the Nashville Predators, there was a positive note. That was the performance of goalie Ilya Samsonov, who made 21 saves. 

Samsonov struggled earlier in the season, which led to Joseph Woll’s emergence as the team’s No. 1 goaltender (although that’s far from official, I’d guess). Woll is scheduled to start tonight’s game. However, head coach Sheldon Keefe was encouraged by Samsonov’s performance. His note was that he “looked like the Sammy of last season.”

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In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at the upcoming game and some of the player activity that is taking place as the team constructs its lineup. I’ll also take a quick look at some of the issues the team needs to work on to improve its play. As well, I offer a note that William Nylander might be on the cusp of setting a franchise record for starting the season with points in nine straight games.

Item One: Joseph Woll Gets the Start Tonight

We’ll see if Woll can continue his impressive run in the net for the Maple Leafs. He draws the starting job against the Kings. The 25-year-old goalie is currently riding a three-game winning streak and has shown remarkable form by only giving up two goals on 98 shots – amazing, actually. This impressive performance has pumped up his save percentage on the season to a stellar .961 and his goals-against average to 1.33. 

Joseph Woll, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Woll’s recent performances have changed the complexion of the team’s preferences in the crease. It would seem that he has earned the starting role and has displaced Samsonov as the go-to guy. That said, I’m certain the coaching staff would like to leave the competition for the number one goalie position open, giving both Woll and Samsonov a chance to earn the spot. 

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Right now, however, the Maple Leafs coaching staff seem ready to nominate Woll as the starter. He’s got a hot hand. Can he hold onto this run? I’m anxious to see if he grabs the chance.

We’ll see where things are later tonight.

Item Two: Jake McCabe Will Not Play Tonight 

Jake McCabe will remain on the sidelines for tonight’s game against the Kings. He suffered a groin injury, and that will keep him out. There is no report about whether he has a chance to go against the Boston Bruins on Thursday either. 

Jake McCabe, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

McCabe was injured in the Dallas Stars game on Oct. 26. Before the injury, he had played seven games but had not scored a point. He does however have nine blocked shots, 12 hits, and a minus-4 rating. There’s no doubt the Maple Leafs would love to have him back in their lineup. 

Item Three: Timothy Liljegren Will Play Tonight

In the mirror of McCabe’s bad news is the good news that Timothy Liljegren will return to the lineup for tonight’s game. Liljegren left Saturday’s game against the Predators with an upper-body issue, but it seems the injury wasn’t so serious as to keep him out another game.

Related: Maple Leafs Commentary: Who’s Better, Liljegren, Sandin or Holl?

The 24-year-old Swedish defenseman has an assist in eight games this season. He’ll likely slot back into the defense’s second pairing and get some minutes on the second power-play unit for the game. 

Item Four: The Maple Leafs Need to Improve Its Penalty-Killing

The Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game with at least one area to address, and that’s their penalty-killing. Against the Predators on Saturday, the team allowed two goals and both were scored on a Nashville man advantage. There’s little doubt that’s been an area of practice heading into the game this evening. 

The Maple Leafs rank 25th in the NHL in penalty-kill success at 74.1 percent. That’s a far cry from the NHL-leading Bruins who sit at 97.1 percent.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Tonight’s home game against the Kings is a chance for the Maple Leafs to overcome their recent defensive setbacks and put together a strong performance in front of their home crowd. We’ll see if they can come out flying in this game or if they have homecoming game syndrome.

Morgan Rielly and William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate an overtime goal during Game 3 of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

One player fans should watch tonight is Nylander. He tied a franchise-record eight-game point streak at the start of the season. Should he hit the scoresheet again, he’ll hold the record with nine consecutive games. In that, he’ll surpass Maple Leafs legends like Frank Mahovlich, Lanny McDonald, and John Anderson.

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The post Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Woll, McCabe, Liljegren & Nylander appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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