The Toronto Maple Leafs will be looking to move past the disappointment of last season’s first-round elimination, but whether they can do that will only be proven once they make the postseason for the sixth straight season and advance for the first time since 2004.
The Leafs take on the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday, in front of a full building for the first time since March, 2020 and hoping to set a new standard of success.
"Last year, we focused on setting a standard and we did a lot of good things and made our way into playoffs, (but we) fell short, so we want to get better." Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin said. "It's a long season, so we’ve got to start on the right foot tonight."
It is understandable that the Leafs would prefer not to dwell on the negativity of how last season ended and have spent most of the offseason and training camp owning their failures, but whether the end result will be any different is many months and 82 games away.
Toronto will be without Auston Matthews (still recovering from off-season wrist surgery) and winger Ilya Mikheyev (who underwent successful surgery to repair a broken thumb on Wednesday), but the status of leading scorer Mitch Marner is still up in the air.
Marner left practice early on Tuesday after colliding with teammate Wayne Simmonds during practice, but head coach Sheldon Keefe said that things were looking positive after the winger took to the ice for an optional skate Wednesday morning, but still indicated that his availability would be a game-time decision. If Marner is unable to play, the Leafs could opt to go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen (inserting Timothy Liljegren in), but more than likely they would call up Kirill Semyonov to fill in.
All indications point to Jack Campbell making the start against Montreal and Petr Mrazek going in the second of back-to-back games against Ottawa on Thursday. Jake Allen will make the start for the Habs with Carey Price in the NHL/NHLPA assistance program.
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