Keefe confirms Bunting's Game 5 scratch, adds 'he will get back in'
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting will serve as a healthy scratch for the first time in his Toronto Maple Leafs career in Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, head coach Sheldon Keefe confirmed Wednesday.
“He will get back in. It’s just not going to be tomorrow,” Keefe said.
Bunting skated as an extra in Wednesday's practice, with the Maple Leafs sticking with their same 12 forwards for Game 5.
"It's a conversation between Keefer and I," Bunting said of being informed of the scratch. "I want to play. I want to be in the lineup. That's what I intend on doing in the future here; There is a little adversity here. But I've been dealing with adversity my whole life and I made it here. It's just another day for me."
“My job is to be a good teammate in all aspects," he added. "That’s what I’m going to keep doing, and I’ll wait for my number to be called.”
Bunting spoke Wednesday for the the first time since receiving a three-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Erik Cernak in Game 1. He noted that he reached out to Cernak after the hit, which has kept the Lightning defenceman sidelined since.
"I just tried to create space for myself, because I was expecting contact from him," Bunting said of the incident. "But that time he wasn’t going in for contact … I never intend to hurt anyone out there. That’s not my game."
Knies moves up the lineup
Toronto does appear set to shake up their lines in Thursday's game as rookie Matthew Knies skated on the team's second line Wednesday with John Tavares and Mitch Marner, while Alexander Kerfoot worked on the third line with Ryan O'Reilly and Noel Acciari.
Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Calle Jarnkrok were on the top line and Zach Aston-Reese, David Kampf and Sam Lafferty made up the fourth line.
"Obviously his situation opened the door for someone like Matthew Knies to come in and he did a terrific job for us, and the chemistry of the rest of the group just makes sense," Keefe said after the skate.
Bunting was sporting a white jersey in Wednesday's practice, though the team's jerseys did little to reveal a potential lineup for Game 5.
While the Maple Leafs have previously used blue jerseys for their top six and white for their bottom six, eight players took Wednesday's skate in bottom-six white Wednesday. Wayne Simmonds, who has yet to play in the series, was also among the players in white and worked with Bunting as an extra. Scratches have previously worn grey during the Leafs skates.
The Maple Leafs lead the first-round series 3-1.
Bunting, 27, had 23 goals and 49 points in 82 games during the regular season. He was held off the scoresheet in Toronto's 7-3 loss in Game 1 before being ejected in the second period.
Murray skates for Maple Leafs
Goaltender Matt Murray skated on his own Wednesday as he continues to work towards a return from a concussion suffered on April 2.
Murray appeared in 26 games for the Leafs this year, his first with Toronto after he was acquired via trade from the Ottawa Senators.
He had a 14-8-2 record, with a .903 save percentage and 3.01 goals against average.