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Maple Leafs Quick Hits: Lineup Changes, Mrazek’s Start & Tavares’ Success

The Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night. What quick hits are happening for the team? The lineup? Mrazek? Tavares?

The Toronto Maple Leafs will see some lineup changes heading into tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. First, despite the team’s recent success, there are going to make some changes on the back end. Second, Petr Mrazek will start in goal.

In the video below, Sportsnet’s Shawn McKenzie and Luke Fox discuss a number of the upcoming lineup changes the Maple Leafs will employ in their game against the Sabres tonight. In this edition of Maple Leafs’ Quick Hits, I’ll share some of this news. As noted, Morgan Rielly and Rasmus Sandin will be forming a new defensive pairing; Mrazek will get his second straight start in the net as a way to give Jack Campbell a mental break; and, there’s an expectation that Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares is getting ready to have a breakout game.

Related: 18 Odd Facts from a Game for the Ages: Maple Leafs Beat Red Wings 10-7

Quick Hit One: Head Coach Sheldon Keefe Is Making Changes to the Team’s Rear Guard

Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe is keeping the red-hot Justin Holl and T.J. Brodie together. Since the pairing began to play together, Holl has scored five points in his last two games. See the goal he scored at the end of the first period in Washington against the Capitals below.

At the same time, coach Keefe is going to make some other changes to the defensive pairings. First, he’s going to pair Morgan Reilly with Rasmus Sandin. That move in itself is interesting because both defensemen are lefties. At the same time, Travis Dermott has gotten over his flu bug so he’ll draw in beside Maple Leafs’ newcomer Ilya Lyubushkin. That means Timothy Liljegren will be the seventh defenseman and he’ll sit.

Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 5-3 Win Over the Capitals

Quick Hit Two: Petr Mrazek Will Start His Second Game in a Row

A second interesting move from Tuesday’s practice is that Petr Mrazek will get the start in goal again. That means that regular starter Jack Campbell will again be the backup. That move might be significant. Coach Keefe has noted that he believes Campbell’s dealing with – what he termed it – a “mental block.” He believes giving Mrazek another start will also give Campbell time to clear his head.

Petr Mrazek Maple Leafs
Petr Mrazek Maple Leafs

The Sabres’ game tonight will be the first time that Mrazek will have had consecutive starts. He’s been on a bit of a winning streak. Although his save percentage isn’t fantastic, he’s a battler and has gotten the team wins. It’s significant that Mrazek will get consecutive starts and, as a result, might get a chance to grab the net should he continue to win.

Quick Hit Three: Is John Tavares Is Gearing Up for a Breakout Game?

Although John Tavares makes a lot of money and people have been critical of his play because he hasn’t been scoring many goals, that doesn’t mean Tavares’ stock with the team has diminished. He’s a player the team can count on every game. He plays the game the right way. 

In fact, Tavares had a great game against the Capitals on Monday night. He set up a key goal for linemate William Nylander and his hard work below the red line got the puck to Holl to set up Sandin for the game-winner. Coach Keefe has noted that Tavares is a player he believes is gearing up for a breakthrough performance. 

John Tavares Maple Leafs UD card
John Tavares Maple Leafs (Upper Deck card)

Tavares has been battling the flu bug recently and hasn’t been playing at 100 percent. While you know he wants to score more goals and to live up to his contract, at the same time he’s still contributing. In the past 11 games, he’s registered 10 assists.

However, Maple Leafs’ fans have to know he’ll be looking to hit the back of the net Wednesday night when the team plays the Buffalo Sabres on the road.

Related: Maple Leafs Might Be Looking Into Marc-Andre Fleury Trade



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