The Toronto Maple Leafs will visit the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night with preparation for the playoffs in mind.
The Maple Leafs (35-13-6, 76 points) have clinched first place in the North Division and could use the final two games of the regular season to work injured players back into the lineup.
It will be the last game of the season for the Senators (22-28-5, 49 points), who did not qualify for the playoffs and will be out to make amends for a 6-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
Maple Leafs Nick Foligno (upper-body injury), Zach Hyman (knee) and Riley Nash (knee) appeared ready to return against the Senators or on Friday against the Winnipeg Jets after good practices on Monday and Tuesday.
The plan is to start goaltender Frederik Andersen (lower-body injury) in Ottawa on Wednesday after he makes two appearances with the AHL Toronto Marlies.
Foligno, who had been playing on the top line with Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner, will be a game-time decision on Wednesday as will Justin Holl (undisclosed). Nash and Hyman will not play.
“First, we have to get these guys healthy and ready to even play games,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said on Monday. “We’re not there yet. Hyman and Nash, it was their first practice available for contact, but there was little of that today. (Tuesday) will be a good step, whether it’s them or Fred. The salary cap (for the regular season) is a whole other beast I don’t know a lot about.”
“I still have to talk with trainers and coaches, but I’m encouraged,” said Foligno, who has been out for about a week. “Things happen in the playoffs that you don’t foresee. Having depth at any point in the playoffs is so crucial, and looking around this room and seeing the names, it’s cause for excitement. You have guys playing down the lineup who could be playing up anywhere. That makes you a dangerous group.”
Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin added: “I think we’re the most well-rounded team that I’ve seen here,”
The Maple Leafs have not played since defeating the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 at home on Saturday to secure first place in the division.
The Maple Leafs are 5-2-1 against the Senators this season.
The Senators have finished their season well, going 7-2-1 in their past 10 games despite the loss on Sunday.
“I think we went back to our old habits (Sunday),” Senators left winger Brady Tkachuk said. “They came out ready to play and we didn’t. It’s not only about ourselves, it’s about making our community proud, and they’ve been sticking with us through thick and thin and we just can’t give them that effort we gave them (Sunday).”
The Senators will be trying to go out on a positive note against their Ontario rivals, the Maple Leafs.
“We’ve been playing great lately but (Sunday) we just didn’t have it,” Senators left winger Nick Paul said. “We have to get pucks on net and create offense and (Sunday) we were losing our battles and it showed.”
Filip Gustavsson is expected to start in goal for Ottawa on Wednesday.
The Maple Leafs reassigned defenseman Mac Hollowell to the taxi squad and have reassigned goaltender Michael Hutchinson, defenseman Timothy Liljegren and right winger Stefan Noesen to the Marlies.
–Field Level Media