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Alex Galchenyuk was asked if bouncing around so many teams the last few years has motivated him. 

"I mean, yes and no, to be honest," the former third overall pick said. "It's not like it's the foundation, that I've been on a few teams and that's why I'm super motivated. I trained well all summer and prepared for a big year and things don't work out, but you stick with it."

Galchenyuk is playing like a man with no shortage of motivation right now. Six games into his Leafs career and the winger seems to have found a home on Toronto's second line skating alongside John Tavares and William Nylander. 

"Since he's been a part of that line, really since he's come into our lineup, he has been very consistent in his work habits, in his details, very competitive, and when the puck comes to him he makes a play with it," noted Sheldon Keefe. 

The coach usually starts the Auston Matthews line in games, but sent the Tavares unit out for the opening face-off of each period on Wednesday night. And Galchenyuk is certainly doing his part to set the tone. 

"He's come in with a great attitude," observed Tavares. "Enjoys playing. Just has a real passion for the game and he brings a lot of intensity. He wants to go out there and make a difference and make his presence felt ... Certainly, the skill-set's there. The desire and work ethic is there so sometimes it's just timing and opportunity."

Keefe has lauded Galchenyuk's ability on the forecheck calling him underrated in that regard. It’s something T.J. Brodie notices as well. 

"He plays a fast game and he's always hounding the puck and on the forecheck with a good stick," the Leafs defenceman said. "The chemistry on that line has been good."

"He's got a good sense of where to be," added Tavares, "finding the open ice, open places where we can get him the puck and sustain puck possession and pressure and create opportunities. So, he continues to get more comfortable and confidence continues to grow." 

Galchenyuk, who has picked up three assists with the Leafs, is doing his best to tune out the chatter about his career trajectory. 

"I try and let my game speak for myself," he said, "and, as of late, going out there and working as hard as I can and competing and making plays on both sides of the rink and trying to set up my teammates for good opportunities."

Galchenyuk only got an eight-game audition in Ottawa to start the season. He scored one goal with the Senators, which came against the Winnipeg Jets. Despite possessing a howitzer of a shot, he has yet to bulge the twine with Toronto.

"Haven't scored yet which is something I definitely try and focus on and [want to] get a first one as a Leaf and get on the board," he acknowledged. 


During his mid-season media session, general manager Kyle Dubas revealed most of his trade-related calls revolved around adding a forward. Perhaps the emergence of Galchenyuk will reduce the need to acquire a top-six winger? 

"I don't know," Keefe said with a smile. "You're going to have to find a way to get to ask Kyle a question and get him to answer that one."

But the coach did say he’d be comfortable waking up on April 13, a day after the trade deadline, with the same group of players he has at his disposal now. 

"Yeah, I mean, we’ve been rolling as a team and building a lot of positive feelings about the group and the camaraderie of the team has been strong all season," Keefe said.


The Matthews line produced the only two even-strength goals in Wednesday's game. Those goals came against the Pierre-Luc Dubois line and the Mark Scheifele line. But Toronto's big guns were held quiet down the stretch after Paul Maurice turned to his trusted checking line of Adam Lowry between Andrew Copp and Mason Appleton. 

"It's tough," Appleton said of the match-up. "First of all, when you have the puck you have to make responsible plays with it. You can't turn it over in basically any area of the ice otherwise they're coming back and playing with speed through the neutral zone and they'll be in the offensive zone for a while. It starts with managing the puck right. If you don't have the puck, it's about being aggressive on them. Some people have a tendency to sit back and lay back when a guy's coming with a lot of speed or a lot of skill but that's not always how you defend. We go at them and try and get on the body and make them turn the puck over that way. Me, Lows and Copper, we can do a good job of that if we get that match tonight. We'll get on the body and make it a really hard night for them."

In the nearly seven minutes that Appleton and Matthews shared the ice in five-on-five play on Wednesday, shot attempts (5-0) and shots (1-0) favoured the Jets, per NaturalStatTrick. 

Appleton lives for this type of showdown. 

"It's awesome," he said. "Playing against some of the best players in hockey presents an incredible challenge and you got to be right in a lot of areas of your game to defend them. They'll get opportunities, but you have to bounce back. We were good at times, but there's definitely another step to take and we'll have that figured out tonight."  

Matthews is plus-9 over his last seven games, which is his best stretch of the season in that department.


Travis Dermott played just seven minutes and 58 seconds on Wednesday, but Keefe insists the team is pleased with what the 24-year-old defenceman is bringing to the table. 

"I know that there's focus at times when he doesn't play a lot, but I don't look at that as a great representation of how we feel about his season," the coach stressed. "He's been the six defenceman and sometimes the way the game goes, whether it's penalties, special teams, matchups, score, all those kind of things, you tend to shorten the bench and it's usually the sixth defenceman that gets caught up in that a little bit. I think when we look at his game there's definitely been good nights for him, really strong nights where it's all come together, and there's others when it's been strong on the defensive side, but play with the puck hasn't really been there. I think when we look at the large sample he's done what we've asked of him."

Dermott is averaging 12 minutes and 36 seconds of ice time this season. 

Toronto's defence has remained healthy most of the year although Dermott did get a two-game look in the top four after Jake Muzzin got hurt in February. 


Jets captain Blake Wheeler is a game-time decision. 

Keefe was not asked any lineup-related questions this morning. This is how the team practised on Thursday: 

Hyman - Matthews - Marner 

Galchenyuk - Tavares - Nylander

Thornton - Kerfoot - Spezza 

Mikheyev - Engvall - Simmonds

Barabanov - Brooks - Sabourin


Rielly - Brodie 

Muzzin - Holl

Dermott - Bogosian

Marincin - Liljegren