Toronto Maple Leafs: Eichel, Matthews and Andersen Out

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 25: Jack Eichel
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 25: Jack Eichel /

Three all-stars won’t be in the lineup in tonight’s tilt between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres at the KeyBank Center.

After suffering an ankle injury in February, Jack Eichel has been out of the Sabres lineup. He has made significant strides in his recovery, but Sabres’ head coach, Phil Housley has stated that Eichel won’t return tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Similarly, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be without Auston Matthews. Matthews has been on the shelf with a shoulder injury. This week, Matthews has been active at practice, but he is still downing a red no contact jersey. Until Matthews removes the red jersey, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll return to the lineup. He’s being considered “day-to-day”.

In addition to Matthews being sidelined, Frederik Andersen is also on the injury list. In last night’s affair with the Dallas Stars, Andersen collided with Alex Radulov. Radulov was being pushed down into the crease by Roman Polak and Radulov accidentally made contact with Andersen. Andersen appeared to have been shaken up and Mike Babcock pulled him immediately. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ training staff hasn’t deemed publicly what Andersen is suffering from, but Lou Lamoriello decided to play it safe and call up Garret Sparks. Sparks has been sensational for the Toronto Marlies this season and will be called upon to backup Curtis McElhinney tonight, per a report from TSN’s Kristen Shilton.

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Toronto Maple Leafs Updates

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ practice lines haven’t been announced on Twitter at this time. If Nikita Zaitsev still isn’t feeling 100 percent from the flu, he’ll likely sit out and the Toronto Maple Leafs will roll with the same defensive pairings.

In last night’s matchup with the Stars, the third line comprised of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Connor Brown’s line flourished. Van Riemsdyk had a hat trick and Bozak set up two of his goals. The third line will likely see a fair amount of ice-time tonight as the Sabres defense and net-minding has been shaky this season. The Sabres have the fifth highest goals against in the NHL with 222 goals.

In terms of changes to the offensive lines, Mike Babcock has decided to put Matt Martin in the lineup, per a report from Shilton. Martin will replace Andreas Johnsson. Johnsson had his NHL debut last night against Dallas, but suffered a cut early on. It’s probably wise to let Johnsson sit out and heal.

Buffalo Sabres

Earlier this morning, the Buffalo Sabres twitter handle tweeted out their game day skate lines.

If the Toronto Maple Leafs defense can shut down the Sabres’ top line, then the Toronto Maple Leafs should be golden. With Eichel out of the lineup, the Sabres don’t have many threats except for Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly has had a strong season in Buffalo. At this point, he has 19 goals and 31 assists in 68 games. One thing to note about O’Reilly is that most of his goals have come on the power-play. So if the Toronto Maple Leafs stay out of the box, they’ll be able to neutralize the threat.

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be facing two former Montreal Canadiens’ defenseman tonight as they take on Nathan Beaulieu and Josh Gorges. Both, Gorges and Beaulieu aren’t sporting high corsi-for percentages and shouldn’t be difficult to navigate around.

The defenseman that the Toronto Maple Leafs need to keep their eye on is Rasmus Ristolainen. Ristolainen has been dominant for the Sabres this season. Similarly to O’Reilly, most of Ristolainen’s points have come on the power-play. So, Roman Polak and Nazem Kadri need to do their best to stay out of the box to neutralize the Sabres’ few threats.

Next: Garret Sparks Recalled

Prediction & Notes

If the Toronto Maple Leafs can shut down Ristolainen and O’Reilly, they’ll prevail. My prediction is that the Toronto Maple Leafs will win by a score of 5-2.

Puck drop will be at approximately 7:05 PM EST and the game can be found on TSN4.

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