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Maple Leafs at Coyotes preview

Keefe to coach first NHL game for Toronto; Arizona going for third straight shutout

by Alan Robinson / Independent Correspondent

MAPLE LEAFS (9-10-4) at COYOTES (13-7-2)



The Game

Sheldon Keefe will coach his first game for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Thursday.

Keefe was hired Wednesday after Mike Babcock was fired. Keefe was in his fifth season as coach of the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League. The Maple Leafs are 0-5-1 in their past six games.

The Coyotes have shut out their past two opponents and are 4-1-0 in their past five games.


Players to watch

Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, who grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in his past eight games.

Coyotes forward Conor Garland has three goals in his past four games and leads Arizona with 10 goals.


They said it

"This is probably easiest on the players, quite frankly. They're just here to play a hockey game. They're probably happy there's a game to play tonight." -- Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas on the coaching change

"Toronto is going to come out with juice. There's urgency. The antennas are up. The players aren't happy, the organization isn't happy. So there's a lot of focus. There's a lot of tension." -- Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet


Maple Leafs projected lineup

Andreas Johnsson -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Ilya Mikheyev -- John Tavares -- Zach Hyman

Alexander Kerfoot -- Jason Spezza -- Kasperi Kapanen

Pierre Engvall -- Frederik Gauthier -- Nic Petan

Morgan Rielly -- Cody Ceci

Jake Muzzin -- Justin Holl

Travis Dermott -- Tyson Barrie

Frederik Andersen

Kasimir Kaskisuo

Scratched: Dmytro Timashov, Martin Marincin, Nicholas Shore

Injured: Mitchell Marner (ankle), Trevor Moore (shoulder)


Coyotes projected lineup

Christian Dvorak -- Nick Schmaltz -- Conor Garland

Lawson Crouse -- Carl Soderberg -- Phil Kessel

Barrett Hayton -- Derek Stepan -- Clayton Keller

Christian Fischer -- Brad Richardson -- Vinnie Hinostroza

Oliver Ekman-Larsson -- Jason Demers

Jakob Chychrun -- Alex Goligoski

Aaron Ness -- Jordan Oesterle

Darcy Kuemper

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Michael Grabner, Ilya Lyubushkin, Eric Comrie

Injured: Niklas Hjalmarsson (lower body)


Status report

Kerfoot is expected to play after missing three games following surgery for dental fractures last week. … Hayton is expected to play after being scratched the previous six games. … Grabner is out because he's a "little banged up," according to Tocchet.


Stat pack

Tavares needs two assists for 400 in the NHL. … Spezza has a goal in each of his past two games after scoring once in his first 11. … Arizona has a multigame shutout streak for the sixth time in Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets history, and the first time by multiple goalies; Kuemper shut out the Calgary Flames 6-0 on Saturday, and Raanta was in goal for a 3-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

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