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Maple Leafs' lineup questions won't have answers until game time: Keefe

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews, left, celebrates his power play goal against the Ottawa Senators with teammate Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews, left, celebrates his power play goal against the Ottawa Senators with teammate Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.

The Maple Leafs likely are going to have to get by without Auston Matthews again on Monday night.

And it’s probable there will be a goaltending change when the Leafs meet the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.

Matthews, who did not play in the Leafs’ 4-0 win against Edmonton on Saturday as he continues to deal with a wrist issue, took part in the optional skate on Monday morning and was on the ice long after the other regular Leafs departed.

Jack Campbell, who made 30 saves on Saturday for his third National Hockey League shutout and first with the Leafs, did not participate in the skate, a day after he was not on the ice for practice. The game on Saturday was Campbell’s first since Jan. 24, the start coming after he had recovered from a lower-body injury. His latest ailment has not been disclosed.

Frederik Andersen, meanwhile, has missed the past three games as he deals with a lower-body issue, though he took part in the skate.

Michael Hutchinson, who has posted a .924 save percentage in three starts, was in the starter’s net during the optional.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said any lineup decisions would come at game time (10 p.m. Eastern).

“We just have too many things up in the air at this point,” Keefe said during his availability.

The Leafs played perhaps their most complete game of the season on Saturday, cutting Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl off at the knees and limiting the Oilers’ pair of superstars to a total of four shots on goal. Edmonton, on the whole, got little off the rush.

“We managed the puck well, but we were not perfect on our half of the ice,” Keefe said. “I thought we turned the puck over too much. It’s an area we want to be better in tonight.

“Once we got to the neutral zone and beyond the red line, we really managed the puck well. That was easier to do when you have a lead like we did, so that helped our cause.

“With the combination of that puck management and having people fill the middle of the ice and support and insulate our defence, we consistently had advantages numerically in our favour.”

Would it be difficult for Keefe to make lineup changes, considering the performance of the team on Saturday?

“I think we would always find room for Auston,” Keefe said, tongue-in-cheek. “No matter how you play as a team, you’re always evaluating what’s happening. We’ve shown throughout the season that we want to utilize our depth and we want to keep people involved in our group.

“With our injuries, I don’t think we’ve ever counted or ruled anybody out. We have to continue to balance that. But certainly, when you come off a good game and you’re feeling good, you want to try to give the group another opportunity to keep going.”

The Leafs have won both of their games without Matthews, the NHL’s leading goal scorer with 18, this season. Both have come against Edmonton and the Leafs have outscored the Oilers 8-2 in those games.

It’s expected goaltender Mikko Koskinen will start for the Oilers. In four games against the Leafs this season, Koskinen has two wins and two losses.

No matter the result, the Leafs will remain in first place in the NHL. Going into games on Monday, the Leafs (16-4-2), have 34 points, five more than Tampa Bay and Florida, who are tied for second overall.

In the North Division, the Toronto has a six-point lead on second-place Edmonton.

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