Notes from Maple Leafs' morning skate on Ilya Samsonov, 4 other Leafs

Ryan Smitheram
April 11, 2024  (2:35 PM)

Maple Leafs netminder Ilya Samsonov
Photo credit: USA Today Sports

Ilya Samsonov will get the start for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight while Sheldon Keefe gives a handful of players the night off in the grudge match with the New Jersey Devils.

After defeating the Devils Tuesday night in at Prudential Center in New Jersey, the Leafs will host them at Scotiabank Arena in their final meeting of the regular season tonight. Joseph Woll picked up the win on Tuesday and tonight Ilya Samsonov will look to help the Leafs win their fourth in a row.
When the Leafs had 14 games remaining, head coach Sheldon Keefe explained how starts would be split, noting that they would likely play the same amount of games, but would not alternate every game. Since Keefe made the announcement, Woll has played in five games posting a 2-3-0 record while Samsonov has gone 4-0-0 in his starts. Including tonight, the Leafs have 4 games left, including a back-to-back against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning to end the season next week which means we will likely see Woll and Samsonov alternate starts until the end of the season.

Who's in and who's out tonight for the Maple Leafs?

Aside from Samsonov getting the nod between the pipes tonight, Keefe is making a handful of other lineup changes. Connor Dewar will return to the lineup up front and looks to be replacing Noah Gregor on the 4th line. Gregor, who remained out late at the optional morning skate, appears to be one of the Leafs' forwards who are on the outside looking in.
On the blueline, Ilya Lyubushkin will draw back in, as will Joel Edmundson, who hasn't played since suffering an injury March 24th against the Carolina Hurricanes. Edmundson spoke briefly after practice, expressing his excitement to get back in the lineup, but he also confirmed that his injury was minor enough that he would have played through it, had it occurred in the postseason.
With Edmundson and Lyubushkin returning to the lineup, Keefe announced that Jake McCabe and Conor Timmins would have the night off. When asked about the decision to take McCabe out, Keefe said that it was a maintenance day and that McCabe hasn't been healthy all season.
"He's played a lot and done a lot for us this season. Quite honestly, I don't know that he's played many games at 100%. He's played through a lot of stuff this season. Nothing that's obviously held him back from playing, but he's played through a lot."
-Keefe on McCabe

A hard-nosed defenseman, McCabe was rewarded for his gutsy play by scoring the overtime winner Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Are there any updates on Timothy Liljegren and Calle Jarnkrok?

Calle Jarnkrok took to the ice once again ahead of the rest of his teammates as he continues to recover from a hand injury, which he suffered against the Philadelphia Flyers. There is still no timetable for his return, but based on the fact he has yet to join the Leafs for a practice, it is unlikely he will be ready for game one of the playoffs.
Timothy Liljegren, on the other hand, joined his teammates for the first time since being injured March 26th with an upper-body injury, taking part in the Maple Leafs' optional morning skate. He's been out since March 26th with an upper-body injury. The fact that he has rejoined his teammates is a good sign and could mean he will get into one or two of the Leafs' remaining games before the playoffs begin.
Is there more "load management" on the way for the Leafs?
If the last couple of games are any indication, the answer is yes. Even though the Leafs are within striking distance of the Panthers for home-ice advantage, Keefe will likely continue to cycle players in and out of the lineup as the season winds down to ensure that everyone is at or as close to 100 percent when the puck drops for Game 1 of the playoffs. That could very well mean that Auston Matthews misses out on reaching 70-goals, but based on his comments the other night, the milestone is something that is 'nice to have' and not something he wants more than he wants to win a Stanley Cup. We saw it a couple of seasons ago when Keefe scratched Marner at the end of the regular season when he was a point shy of reaching 100 points, which is why we shouldn't be shocked if some load management on the way for Matthews.
Depending how the next couple of games go for the Leafs, Panthers and Matthews for that matter, next week's games against the Panthers and Lightning could possess a lot less firepower as players take some additional rest to get ready for the playoffs.
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Notes from Maple Leafs' morning skate on Ilya Samsonov, 4 other Leafs

Have you been impressed with what you've seen from Joel Edmundson with the Maple Leafs prior to his injury?

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