Maple Leafs bid to get back on track vs. Blues
The Toronto Maple Leafs will continue adapting to new coach Sheldon Keefe when they visit the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
The Maple Leafs have posted a 4-3-0 record since Keefe replaced coach Mike Babcock on Nov. 20, but they lost three of their last four games to slide back to the NHL's version of .500 (13-13-4) for the season. They fell to the Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche by the combined score of 9-2 in their last two contests.
Captain John Tavares failed to register a point in those two losses. Center Auston Matthews has just one point in his last five games and winger William Nylander has just one point in his last four.
"I thought the urgency was fine and some of the adjustments we've been working at defensively have been there for us," Keefe told reporters after Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Avalanche. "While our attention has gone there, we've gotten away from some of the things offensively we need to focus on."
The Blues have earned points in 24 of 30 games this season. Their 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night snapped their four-game winning streak.
"Big picture, we're in a good spot," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I think we'd all love to win 82 games. I don't think any of us in this room are satisfied with the way we played. But we'll take these next couple days and get ready for Saturday. We've played a lot of hockey, so we've gotta make sure we regroup and get ready."
They will face an opponent still struggling to get on track. The Maple Leafs saw star forward Mitch Marner return from injured reserve, but lost fellow forward Andreas Johnsson to a leg injury that will sideline him for weeks.
Johnsson scored 16 points in 30 games this season while generally playing on one of the top two lines. That setback will hamper Keefe's quest to find forward line combinations that click.
"I do intend on moving things around with those top guys," Keefe said. "You lose Johnsson and it changes things a bit, but you're looking for a spark, trying to score."
The Maple Leafs recalled forwards winger Pontus Aberg and Nic Petan along with defenseman Martin Marincin from Toronto of the American Hockey League to restore their depth for the start of their four-game road trip. The Maple Leafs faced a salary cap crunch prior to Johansson's injury.
The Blues have kept rolling despite losing forwards Alexander Steen, Oskar Sundqvist and Sammy Blais to injuries after losing top winger Vladimir Tarasenko for the long haul due to shoulder surgery.
Forwards Ivan Barbashev, who recorded six points during a recent three-game span, and Mackenzie MacEachern have stepped up to provide more depth scoring.
The resilience the Blues displayed last season while rallying from the NHL cellar to win the Stanley Cup has carried over.
"Last year certainly helped the cause, I think, especially for the young guys," Pietrangelo said. "When you play on that stage, not much will faze you after going through what we went through."
--Field Level Media
Updated December 6, 2019