Matthews, McDavid, Kase & Hyman

Suddenly, things are a bit up in the air for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they prepare to play a struggling Edmonton Oilers’ team that’s coming into Scotiabank Arena tired from four games on the road. The Oilers have lost all four games they’ve played and look out of synch. The Oilers won just one game during December.

Am told McDavid’s absence from practice was due to Covid.

It might not be any easier for the Oilers. Today, we had word that the Oilers’ Connor McDavid has tested positive for COVID-19. 

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In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share the good news that Auston Matthews isn’t necessarily ruled out of Wednesday’s game. I’ll also share news about other players on the team as the Maple Leafs are getting ready for Wednesday’s contest.

Item One: Auston Mathews Tests Negative On Second Test

The Maple Leafs appeared to be without their star center Auston Mathews. Yesterday’s rapid test showed that Matthews was positive. They were waiting to hear if this was a false negative. Today’s word was that Auston Matthews had been confirmed positive by a rapid test. Matthews’ PCR test came back negative.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple LeafsAmy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers

Now that the PCR test has provided a negative result, he hasn’t been ruled out for Wednesday’s contest. It’s my understanding that Matthews will have to have another negative test tomorrow.

Item two: Will Ondrej Kaze Be Able To Play Tomorrow?

Every time I hear that Ondrej Kase is dealing with an injury, I immediately ask the question “Is it concussion-related?” The bad news is that Kase does have an “undisclosed injury.” But the good news is (I guess) that he “tweaked something” During a workout at the gym. 

Kase is considered day-to-day due to this injury. He’s become a great addition to the team and has now scored eight goals and eight assists (for 16 points) in the 28 games he’s played during the season.

Item 3: Jack Campbell will get the start against the Oilers

It’s not surprising that goalie is so popular. Jack Campbell was selected as the starterThe Oilers. He’s fresh from a relatively easy 23-save shutout on Saturday as the Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators. On the season, Campbell has a record of 16-5-2, a goals-against-average of 1.86, and a save percentage of .939 in 24 games (he’s started 23 games and was in relief when backup goalie Petr Mrazek first pulled his groin). 

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple LeafsAmy Irvin/ The Hockey Writers

During his last five games, Campbell has gone 3-1-1, with a goals-against-average of 2.37, and a save percentage of .924. Even if McDavid is out of the lineup, the Oilers will generate a lot of shots on net, so Campbell could be busy.

Item Four: Timothy Liljegren Is Off COVID-19 Protocols

Good news! Timothy Liljegren was cleared from COVID-19 protocol and returned to practice Monday. During the practice, he was on the Maple Leafs’ fourth defensive pairing. Might that mean he won’t be in the lineup on Wednesday?

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Liljegren has only played 32 NHL matches and has yet to score his NHL goal. It would be fantastic to see him score someday. But unlike Rasmus Sandin (his defensive partner), the 22-year old Liljegren might not have much offensive upside. Still, 32 games aren’t enough to tell how his career will project in the future.

Item Five: Teemu Kivihalme Sent Back to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies

Teemu Kivihalme, a Toronto Marlies player, was transferred to Toronto earlier this week. Kivihalme hasn’t played much this season, only being in three AHL games this season. He hasn’t scored yet. 

Teemu Kivihalme Finland Emil Larsson Sweden
Teemu Kuivihalme, Finland, and Emil Larsson, Sweden (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva via AP).

The 26-year-old Minnesota native, who’s also played for two seasons in Finland’s SM-Liiga with Karpat, was a fifth-round (140th overall) draft choice by the Nashville Predators in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He hasn’t yet made his NHL debut since being signed by the Maple Leafs in May 2019.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Two things are up in the air for Wednesday’s game. Will McDavid be playing for the Oilers? Will Matthews also play for the Maple Leafs 

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The third question is about Zach Hyman’s performance against his former team. He’s had a decent season, especially early on when the Oilers were playing well. However, over his last 10 games, he hasn’t scored a goal and has only three assists. His last goal was on December 1, 2021, when he scored two goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. By the way, it was the Oilers’ last win.