One night after a shootout victory at Vegas, the Toronto Maple Leafs will change locations in the desert for a matchup against the host Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday in Glendale, Ariz.
Following a 5-4 overtime loss at Colorado on Saturday, the Maple Leafs received goals from William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Ilya Mikheyev in a 4-3 victory over the Golden Knights on Tuesday. Nylander scored the only goal in the shootout.
Toronto has earned a point in seven of the last eight games, and the Maple Leafs are 11-2-2 going back to Thanksgiving week.
Wednesday’s game marks the return home for Maple Leafs star forward Auston Matthews, who grew up in nearby Scottsdale. Matthews turned to hockey as his sport of choice after watching Coyotes games while growing up.
In eight career games against the Coyotes, Matthews has three goals and an assist. Wednesday will be his first game at Arizona since Nov. 21, 2019, when he scored a third-period goal in a 3-1 victory.
That game is better known as Sheldon Keefe’s debut as Toronto coach. Keefe has guided the Maple Leafs to an 85-37-15 record ever since, including last season’s first-place finish in the North Division.
Jack Campbell made 31 saves for the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, but Keefe said he will turn to Petr Mrazek in net against the Coyotes. Mrazek, in his first season with Toronto, has played just three games and has not been on the ice since Dec. 11, when he made 31 saves in a 5-4 home victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Mrazek was in COVID-19 protocol in December, and a groin injury cost him all of November.
“It’s sort of like a new season for him,” Keefe said. “It’s been so long since he’s played. We had a significant gap (during the holiday break), we had somewhat of a preseason feel before coming out on this road trip, and he should be looking at it like a fresh start.”
The Coyotes could use a reset button themselves. They have lost three of four games since their schedule resumed after the holiday break. It wasn’t much better before the break when they lost eight of 10, but they did have an impressive 6-5 overtime victory at Anaheim on Dec. 17 before play was halted.
Arizona’s most recent defeat was a 4-2 decision Saturday at home against the Nashville Predators. Clayton Keller and Lawson Crouse each scored goals, while Karel Vejmelka had 25 saves, but the game was lost early when the Predators scored three times in the first period.
“That first period wasn’t up to our expectations of what we want night in and night out,” Arizona forward Andrew Ladd said. “We were way too passive in all parts of our game and allowed them to take control of the puck.”
The Coyotes are 1-2-0 heading into the finale of their four-game homestand, while the Maple Leafs are 1-0-1 to start a run of six road games.
–Field Level Media