The Toronto Maple Leafs’ quest for revenge against the Montreal Canadiens for last season’s playoff elimination begins with the first game of the season.
Expectations are still high for the Maple Leafs coming into this season. The team made the decision to retain the same core but added several complementary pieces during the offseason.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek was signed as a free agent to provide support to Jack Campbell, who is getting his first opportunity as a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.
The Maple Leafs defense has some stability, which has not always been the case. Zach Bogosian signed in Tampa Bay and while Rasmus Sandin is the newest addition, he was playing for the Maple Leafs down the stretch and into the playoffs last season.
Up front, the Leafs lost Zach Hyman, Joe Thornton, and Nick Foligno as free agents and brought in Nick Ritchie, Michael Bunting, Ondrej Kase, David Kampe, and Michael Amadio, so there are quite a few new pieces to be moved around the forward depth chart.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to be missing Auston Matthews for the first week of the season, as he recovers from wrist surgery, and Ilya Mikheyev is out for a couple of months with a thumb injury so that will require some line juggling already.
That does present opportunities for this version of the Maple Leafs. They are not icing their very best lineup but neither are the Canadiens. The Pittsburgh Penguins minus Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin just went into Tampa Bay and defeated the Lightning Tuesday night, so the schedule waits for no team.
Toronto’s expected lineup for the first game of the season:
Ritchie – Tavares – Marner
Bunting – Kerfoot – Nylander
Engvall – Kampf – Kase
Amadio – Spezza – Simmonds
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – Holl
Sandin – Dermott
The Canadiens have their own concerns, most notably that star goaltender Carey Price is away from the team after checking into the player assistance program. That means Jake Allen will shoulder most of the load in the Canadiens crease, with recent waiver addition Samuel Montembeault available as the backup.
The Canadiens also signed winger Mike Hoffman as a free agent, but Hoffman is still working his way back from a lower-body injury. Speedy Paul Byron is out with a hip injury. Defenseman Joel Edmundson is also out with a lower-body injury and captain Shea Weber could miss the entire season due to thumb and ankle injuries.
On top of those injuries, Montreal had some significant turnover via free agency, with Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi departing. The Canadiens have brought in Christian Dvorak and Cedric Paquette and added Adam Brooks on waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs this week to shore up questionable centre ice depth. They also inked veteran winger Mathieu Perreault.
Montreal also signed free agent defensemen David Savard and Chris Wideman. Savard coming off a Stanley Cup victory with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Wideman trying to re-establish his NHL career after playing last season in the KHL.
Here is Montreal’s expected lineup for Wednesday night’s opening game:
Toffoli – Suzuki – Caufield
Drouin – Dvorak – Anderson
Armia – Evans – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Paquette – Perreault
Kulak – Petry
Chiarot – Savard
Romanov – Wideman
Watch on Sportsnet and listen on TSN 1050 in Toronto.
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