After winning three times on a four-game homestand, the Toronto Maple Leafs will open a five-game road trip Saturday night against the Winnipeg Jets.
After an uninspiring 4-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday, Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said that changes might be considered.
In came Nicholas Robertson, who played his first game of the season and had two goals Thursday night that included the overtime winner in a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars.
Robertson added a spark playing on the second line with captain John Tavares and William Nylander.
“Excellent to see Nick come into our lineup and make a difference,” Keefe said. “… He has the ability to finish and he showed that tonight. He had two really good looks. He had a couple other looks, actually, that were close.
“He also did a lot of little things really well in the game. He was on the puck, forechecked, he got back on defense. It was a really good performance for him.”
Before his overtime goal, Robertson made a good defensive play to gain possession that led to a breakout with Morgan Rielly and Auston Matthews.
“It’s been ups and downs for sure,” Robertson said. “To get sent down given cap space and everything — the situation was definitely tough to grasp. That was tough. But now to get a night like this, it kind of makes up for it.”
Toronto will be making another change Saturday when Wayne Simmonds is expected to play on a line with David Kampf and Pierre Engvall, taking the place of Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
The Jets are returning from losing two of three on a trip that ended Thursday with a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Jets were without coach Rick Bowness, who is recovering from COVID-19, for the fourth consecutive game on Thursday.
Associate coach Scott Arniel was blunt in his assessment of the loss to Vegas.
“We weren’t really ready to go, obviously,” Arniel said. “Really sloppy hockey. We knew they knew we played (Wednesday) night and they were going to come out really hard.
“We didn’t execute in any area. Turned pucks over, kind of all the stuff we’ve been building on here. How we were defending, how we were playing hard, how we were winning battles. We had none of that in the first period. It’s a lesson learned.”
Backup goaltender David Rittich, making his Jets debut, had four of the first 12 shots on him result in goals, mainly a product of poor defensive play in front of him.
“Frustrating,” Rittich said. “That’s not how I imagined my first Jets game was going to look like. So, I wasn’t happy with the first period about how we played and how I played, obviously. I’m the most hard person on myself. I’m not going to blame myself in front of you. We made some mistakes, some tough bounces, and the game was 4-0.”
Nikolaj Ehlers (lower body) missed his second straight game for Winnipeg on Thursday and was placed on injured reserve Friday. Dylan Samberg (lower body) missed the game against Vegas.
“(Samberg) got hurt (Wednesday) night,” Arniel said. “We’re not sure where it was at. Hopefully, maybe, he’ll be back Saturday.”
–Field Level Media