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Keefe undecided on Bunting's return; Knies to stay in lineup

Michael Bunting Toronto Maple Leafs Michael Bunting - Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said Tuesday he's yet to decide whether winger Michael Bunting will be a part of the team's lineup for Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Keefe noted, however, that regardless of whether Bunting dresses with his suspension now complete, rookie Matthew Knies will not leaving the team's lineup.

"Matthew Knies is certainly not coming out of the lineup," Keefe said. "He has done a terrific job for us. He is a guy who definitely earned his spot and the opportunity to continue to play for us.

"With Bunting being available, it’s a very good option, he’s a good player for us. It’s not as easy or as simple a decision as it may have been earlier in the series. We will take our time and sort through it.

"We have a group of guys who have played real hard."

Bunting is eligible to return Thursday after serving a three-game suspension for illegal hit to the head of Lightning defenceman Erik Cernak in Game 1.

Knies took Bunting's spot in the lineup for the Maple Leafs, who have won three straight games to hold a 3-1 series lead. He has one assist in three games during the first-round series.

The 20-year-old signed with the Maple Leafs earlier this month after completing his second season at the University of Minnesota. He had one assist in three regular season games with Toronto.

Selected in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft, Knies had 21 goals and 42 points in 40 games with Minnesota this season.

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.