Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Islanders – Game #48 preview, projected lines and TV info

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Islanders, Mark Giordano
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Needing a response after a disappointing final 40 minutes in Montreal, the Maple Leafs will host a desperate New York Islanders team struggling after four straight losses (7 p.m. EST, Sportsnet).

The Isles are in the midst of a horrendous 2-7-2 month of January — 22 goals for (31st) and 35 against (24th) — that has dropped them to 10th in the East in percentage, sparking the “Fire Lou” chants at Belmont Park Arena during their recent loss to Carolina.

Those calls from some percent of the Isles faithful underscore the steep decline in fan approval for a GM who presided over a tumultuous time in Isles franchise history — the loss of captain John Tavares to the Leafs, the arena situation — and had them knocking on the door to the Stanley Cup Finals with five playoff series wins between 2019 and 2021.

It appears ungrateful when viewed from a distance and placed in the above context, but Lamoriello’s firing of coach Barry Trotz after a year of a strange schedule due to the arena change, the Covid outbreak and significant man plays to the detriment of the defense (with Ryan Pulock, in in particular) was a head-scratching move. The team’s five-on-five numbers suffer greatly without the structure that Trotz’s teams are known for and that allowed the Isles to arguably punch above their weight with back-to-back conference finals in 2020 and 2021.

Among the forward corps, there is plenty of cap dollar and term for players over the age of 30 on this Isles roster. Last offseason, Lamoriello also traded the Isles’ 13th overall pick in the 2022 draft in exchange for defenseman Alex Romanov, in an effort to fill a need at left defense created by the loss of Devon Toews, who Lamoriello dumped in a trade to Colorado instead. than to fulfill his new contract in the summer of 2020.

What has been consistently excellent during Lou’s reign is New York’s goaltending despite a lot of turnover at the position since 2018-19. The Leafs learned all about that back on Nov. 21 when they lost 3-2 in overtime to the Islanders, getting just two past Ilya Sorokin despite outshooting the Islanders 32-24 and owning 72% of the shots at five-on-five .

The Leafs enter this game in a much better position than their old GM’s squad but are looking for a little more consistency in their results through January to date (5-3-2). They hold their place in the standings nicely by winning five of 10 and picking up points in two others, but the consistently inspired November-December play has waned somewhat as there have been some uneven efforts and drops in scoring, including in Saturday’s disappointing loss to Montreal where they led 2-0 after 20 minutes.

In lineup news, Pontus Holmberg has been recalled from the Marlies after his conditioning period, pushing Alex Kerfoot back on a line with David Kampf and Pierre Engvall, while Holmberg joins Zach Aston-Reese and Bobby McMann. He’s still looking for his first NHL point, but McMann has shown enough in his five games (60+% in both CF% and xGF%) to force the Leafs to pass Dryden Hunt through waivers to accommodate Holmberg’s return.

Ilya Samsonov will remain in goal for his third straight start despite taking the overtime loss in Montreal. It’s essentially his fourth straight game after taking over from Matt Murray for the final 40 minutes of last Tuesday’s comeback win over Florida. It represents the longest stretch of consecutive minutes played by either Samsonov or Murray at a time when both are healthy.

“He’s earned it,” Sheldon Keefe said after the morning skate.

Head to Head: Islanders vs. Maple Leafs

In the season statistics, the Leafs have the advantage over the Islanders in five of five offensive categories and three of five defensive categories.

Game Day quote

Sheldon Keefe on the challenge from the Islanders:

They are a team that plays hard, plays with a lot of structure and doesn’t give you much. They do good goaltending when they give you an opportunity. We just expect a game where we have to earn offense.

At the same time, if you give them the puck in bad spots, they have guys who can really turn it on quickly and make you look bad. We have to play the kind of game that we’ve been talking about here a lot lately.

Keefe on the decision to start Ilya Samsonov for the third straight game and whether he’s starting to separate himself from Matt Murray in the goaltending battle:

I don’t know about splitting up or anything, but we’re going back with him tonight, and he’s earned it.

To me, part of how we moved the goalies early in the season is A) managing them after injuries, and B) trying to get them in net after missing significant time with injuries.

Also, both played really well at the same time. Both slipped at the same time. It was more difficult to have any kind of separation.

We are in the second half of the season now. It’s important to give guys opportunities when they deserve them. Matt will be ready when he comes back in. He’ll get his chance to go back with it, but we’ve got two guys that will compete for the net. We like that.

Islanders head coach Lane Lambert on his message to frustrated Isles fans:

We’re working. We’re trying. We struggle through various adversities. We will continue with that.

Isles forward Zach Parise on the team’s offensive struggles lately:

We don’t convert when we get these looks. They don’t go in for us. We don’t bury them. Once that happens, it feels like every mistake we make is magnified. That is where we are.

Isles captain Anders Lee on the adversity the team faces:

We must stick together. Our guys do. We must continue to believe in each other. Show up for work every day. All we have to do is move forward and climb out of this hole.

It’s been a tough stretch here. This sucks. We have to find a way to find some life, find some energy, continue to build our game and find a way.

Toronto Maple Leafs projected lines

#58 Michael Bunting – #34 Auston Matthews – #88 William Nylander
#19 Calle Jernkrok – #91 John Tavares – #16 Mitch Marner
15 Alex Kerfoot – #64 David Kämpf – #47 Pierre Engvall
#12 Zach Aston-Reese – #29 Pontus Holmberg – #74 Bobby McMann

#44 Morgan Rielly – #37 Timothy Liljegren
#55 Mark Giordano – #3 Justin Holl
#38 Rasmus Sandin – #25 Conor Timmins

Starter: #35 Ilya Samsonov
#30 Matt Murray

Extra: Jordie Benn, Wayne Simmonds
TJ Brodie, Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Victor Mete

New York Islanders projected lines

#27 Anders Lee – #13 Mathew Barzal – #53 Casey Cizikas
#12 Josh Bailey – #29 Brock Nelson – #18 Anthony Beauvillier
#11 Zach Parise – #44 Jean-Gabriel Pageau – #10 Simon Holmström
#17 Matt Martin – #16 Aatu Raty – #32 Ross Johnston

#38 Parker Wotherspoon – #3 Adam Pelech
#28 Alexander Romanov – #24 Scott Mayfield
#25 Sebastian Aho – #8 Noah Dobson

Starter: #30 Ilya Sorokin
#40 Semyon Varlamov

Damaged: Oliver Wahlström, Adam Pelech, Kyle Palmieri

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