After two vastly different performances in the first two games of their best-of-five series, the question for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets will be which team will show up on Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena.
Game 1 was a defensive masterpiece by the Jackets, who kept the Leafs offense in check, took the lead on a third period goal by Cam Atkinson and shut Toronto down in the final minutes of regulation. Game 2 was completely different, as the Leafs bombarded Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo and got goals from Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly in a 3-0 victory on Tuesday, but lost defenseman Jake Muzzin to injury late in the third period.
Muzzin is out for the rest of the series, which will force head coach Sheldon Keefe to forge forth without perhaps his most dependable and experienced blueliner. Travis Dermott was moved up to the second pairing with former Marlies partner Justin Holl at practice on Wednesday, while veteran Martin Marincin partnered with Tyson Barrie and rookie Ramsus Sandin skated with Timothy Liljegren.
“I feel very comfortable with Travis,” Holl said on Thursday. “I like the way we were playing before the pause and I think he has stepped in there really nicely and played well. He’s fast, he’s very good offensively and he is dependable defensively, so really have no doubts in his abilities.
Keefe was tactical at his game day press availability, not confirming either way whether he was going with six or seven defensemen, but did indicate on Wednesday that Marincin would be taking Muzzin’s spot because of his usefulness as a penalty killer. If the Leafs choose to insert Sandin, it would mean double shifting either Tavares or Matthews and likely scratching Pierre Engvall.
Columbus is expected to make one lineup change, as defenseman Markus Nutivaara will take the spot of Dean Kukan, who was hit by Leafs forward Kyle Clifford in the first period of Game 2 and left the ice, only to return later in the game.
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