Who is Morgan Rielly? Answer: Leafs player mentioned on Jeopardy!
Sergei Bobrovsky sustained an upper-body injury during the Florida Panthers' win on Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks and will not dress tonight. Instead it will be 25-year-old Chris Driedger facing the Leafs. The Winnipeg native will be making his seventh career start and is 4-2-0 with a .935 save percentage this season.
Panthers coach Joel Quenneville doesn't believe the issue with Bobrovsky, who left Saturday's practice early, is serious and indicated the goalie "should be" available for Thursday's game against the Kings.
The Leafs haven't played since Wednesday night and have been in Florida since Friday so coach Sheldon Keefe is expecting his team to be locked and loaded from puck drop.
"That’s my expectation is that we would be fresh," the coach said. "The schedule's been difficult. This has been the first little bit of breathing room we've had here for quite some time so we are expecting our team to be fresh and fast. We had a good practice yesterday so we feel good and should be ready."
Florida is just three points behind Toronto in the race for the third and final guaranteed playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and the Panthers have played one fewer game.
"We know how big this game is for us," said right winger Mitch Marner. "We know what we need to do."
The Panthers lost twice to the Lightning in December and Quennevilleadmits his group must do a better job raising its level for these type of four-point games. The challenge tonight, he says, is obvious.
"A lot of speed, a lot of high-end skill," Quennevilleobserved of the Leafs. "They can strip pucks and they can turn defence into offence really quick. Their transition is outstanding and we have to manage the puck and play with some confidence in our own end."
Toronto has plenty of high-end skill up front, but the highest scorer in this game plays for the Panthers as Jonathan Huberdeau has 59 points, five more than Auston Matthews.
"Oh man, he's unreal," said defenceman Aaron Ekblad. "The way he passes the puck is like nobody else in this league, in my opinion. He's got some crazy patience."
Ekblad compares Huberdeau's playmaking ability to that of Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
"As a defenceman you're really trying to hope you can bait the guy in, but he always wins that game," Ekblad said. "The Sedins were great at it, you always watched out for that and I think Hubie has that level of skill."
Since the start of December, Huberdeau leads the NHL in assists (21) and points per game (1.56).
"I didn't know he had that extra level of patience or high-end-play ability as far as seeing plays, patience with the puck and making some high-end passes," Quenneville said. "The wow factor has been in play with Hubie. I didn't know he had that level so it’s been fun to watch him. It’s real patience with the puck, he tries some things that are really remarkable."
Huberdeau is heading to the all-star game in St. Louis and Marner, second in assists since Dec. 1, will be joining him. The winger's spot was confirmed on Saturday night when the results of the "Last Men In" vote were unveiled.
"I grew up watching all-star games," said Marner, "grew up wanting to play in one. It should be awesome. It will be great to have my family down there. It's something that's a huge honour to be part of."
Is there any skills competition he's hoping to participate in?
"I was thinking about it today," Marner said. "It's a little nerve-wracking thinking about the stuff you might have to do ... the passing one looks hard. I mean, saw (Drew) Doughty do it last year and that guy can pass through anyone and seeing how it plays on your mind, it's difficult."
Out since Dec. 4 with a leg injury, Andreas Johnsson was activated off injured reserve Sunday afternoon and is officially listed as a game-time decision. The Swede skated alongside countryman Pierre Engvall and Kasperi Kapanen during line rushes.
Leafs lines in warm-up:
Hyman - Matthews - Marner
Kerfoot - Tavares - Nylander
Johnsson - Engvall - Kapanen
Spezza - Brooks - Gauthier
Rielly - Barrie
Dermott - Holl
Marincin - Ceci
Projected scratches: Marchment, Timashov
Injured: Muzzin (broken foot), Moore (concussion)