The Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs will renew their rivalry like perhaps never before during the regular season this week when they will face off three consecutive times in something of a little mini series. The National Hockey League has been forced to make some drastic adjustments to its schedule this season in order to try and squeeze in as many games as possible, and this has created oddities such as this one in the scheduling. Of course for fans of this rivalry, often dubbed the 'Battle of Ontario', the fact that these two teams will face off three times in the next 4 days is great news.
It will be interesting to see how the approach from both Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe and Ottawa Senators head coach Dj Smith, formerly of the Maple Leafs himself, evolve over this series but right from the get go Sheldon Keefe is throwing out a curveball. On Sunday we reported that veteran forward Joe Thornton had revealed that he would be back in the lineup this evening and although that in and of itself has necessitated some changes to the lineup, Keefe clearly had something extra special planned for the Senators.
Thornton was back alongside his usual buddies Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews when the team practiced on Sunday ahead of today's game and I presume that is where he will be this evening as well. This meant that Leafs forward Zach Hyman was bumped back down to the second line alongside John Tavares and William Nylander, but it was the fourth line that held Keefe's potential surprise.
Centering the team's bottom line during Sunday's practice was veteran center Jason Spezza and joining him for the first time was newly minted Maple Leafs' forward Scott Sabourin. Spezza and Sabourin were joined by Jimmy Vesey, but there's no question that Sabourin's potential Leafs debut is the story here.
Not only does he bring a little more grit, or sandpaper, to the Maple Leafs lineup, but he is of course very familiar with the Ottawa Senators. Sabourin, an undrafted 28 year old, made his first appearance in the NHL last season as a member of the Ottawa Senators where he played in 35 games for that organization, recording 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points. During his tenure with the Senators he made a name for himself with his physical playing style and willingness to get under the skin of his opponents, with his most infamous confrontation arguably coming against Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews.
Keep in mind that Sabourin's debut with the Leafs has not been officially announced, so he may not even step into the lineup this evening, but it was certainly hinted at during practice on Sunday.
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