The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks have developed something of a late season rivalry thanks in large part to the now infamous incident involving Canucks defenseman Alex Edler and Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman, and perhaps the changes made today by Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe are an indication of how important this game is to his team.
The Maple Leafs have made significant changes to their lineup ahead of tonight's matchup against the Canucks with several key members of the roster making their return after getting some maintenance time, time that has been afforded to them thanks to Toronto's significant lead in the National Hockey League's North Division standings.
Back in the lineup tonight will be forward Nick Foligno and defensemen Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin, all of whom were given the night off on Thursday in what was presumably an effort to get them as much extra rest and recovery time as possible ahead of the Leafs upcoming run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Although it has not yet been made official it also sounds like Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell will have a chance to pick up his first career win against the Vancouver Canucks this evening after he was also given Thursday night off, presumably for the very same reasons. Campbell has played the Canucks once before but that game represented one of the very few blemishes on his record this season.
Interestingly enough there were hints today that not everyone was a big fan of taking the extra rest in spite of the fact that it would appear to be in the clear best interest of the players. Morgan Rielly told reporters on Saturday that it wasn't always easy for the Maple Leafs staff to talk players who weren't necessarily dealing with injuries or ailments into sitting on the sidelines.
"I think it's a little bit of a process trying to convince guys around here to take time off if they don't absolutely need it," said Rielly. "But I think that in the long run, it was the right thing to do. I'm happy to be back and feeling good."
The Leafs also appeared to make a change to their second power play unit during their morning skate, with Alex Kerfoot taking the spot of veteran Alex Galchenyuk on the team's second power play unit.
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