The Leafs will welcome some fresh blood into the lineup tonight as Casey Bailey will make his NHL debut after being signed out of Penn State this past Saturday. Greg McKegg has been recalled to the NHL on an emergency basis after Zach Sill and Trevor Smith picked up knocks in Monday's outing.
Bailey will have family coming in from as far as Anchorage, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn., for his NHL debut at Air Canada Centre.
"Tonight I just want to go out there and do what I can to help the team out," said Bailey. "If I have to fiish checks or bring some energy, I'll do whatever I need to do. Shoot the puck and have fun."
For McKegg, the recall is his second this season. He had a brief stint with the club after Christmas and joins many Marlies teammates on a Leafs roster that has been bitten by the injury bug.
"I think you definitely feel more comfortable having guys like that around and being up earlier in the year makes it an easier transition as well," said McKegg.
Roberto Luongo is slated to get the start in goal for the Panthers tonight. In 28 games against the Leafs he is 17-7-0 with a pair of shutouts to go alongside his 2.31 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
Nick Bjugstad will be out of the Panthers lineup tonight with a lower body injury. He has six points in eight career games against the Leafs.
The Leafs last played on Monday night and dropped a 2-1 game to the Minnesota Wild at Air Canada Centre. They are 1-8-1 in their last 10 games.
Toronto is 19-16-1 at home this season.
The Wild have surged back into the playoff picture and are coming off a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Blues. They are 7-3-0 in their last 10.
Florida is 15-15-7 on the road this season.
The Leafs and Panthers last played in early March in what is best described as a bizarre game between the two. Both of Florida's goaltenders were injured during the game and they were almost forced to play goaltending coach Robb Tallas in goal. Roberto Luongo ultimately finished the game in relief of Al Montoya as the Leafs won by a 3-2 score. Peter Holland had the game winning goal.
Florida has the 2-1-0 edge in the season series this year.
ONE TO WATCH
Hayes, a Leafs second round pick in 2008, has blossomed in Florida since being acquired in a 2013 trade with the Blackhawks. He sits second in goal scoring for the Panthers behind Nick Bjugstad with 18 tallies in 63 games.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 221 pounds, Hayes is a physical handful for most, if not all, defenders in the League. He is an effective player down low and in tight spaces where he can muscle up on the opponent tasked with marking him in the defensive zone.
The Panthers have been buoyed by the combination of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, but Hayes' line with Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Pirri also packs considerable talent. If the Leafs get locked in on the top unit, it could free up space for Hayes & Co.
Here's how the Leafs and Panthers are expected to line up tonight...
Toronto Maple Leafs
21 van Riemsdyk - 42 Bozak - 81 Kessel
19 Lupul - 36 McKegg - 20 Booth
18 Panik - 47 Komarov - 67 Kozun
15 Lindstrom - 53 Carrick - 37 Bailey
2 Brewer - 3 Phaneuf
51 Gardiner - 44 Rielly
33 Erixon - 57 MacWilliam
11 Huberdeau - 16 Barkov - 68 Jagr
73 Pirri - 21 Trocheck - 12 Hayes
36 Jokinen - 63 Bolland - 24 Boyes
19 Upshall - 17 MacKenzie - 82 Kopecky
51 Campbell - 5 Ekblad
33 Mitchell - 44 Gudbranson
7 Kulikov - 72 Petrovic